The second week of the preseason wasn’t quite as helpful for discerning fantasy information as I’d been hoping, but the bright side is that we seemingly escaped without any major injuries, assuming everything checks out with Odell Beckham (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder) from the Monday Night Football contest. There were still some useful takeaways from the weekend’s games, setting us up for the third-week dress rehearsals that will truly determine many of the major job battles.
DeVante Parker only caught one pass for 16 yards against Baltimore, but he had a 31-yard gain wiped out by a penalty and was targeted on three of Jay Cutler’s six pass attempts (four of seven including the play that didn’t count). Speaking after the game, Cutler said Parker is a faster version of Alshon Jeffery, noting that the third-year wideout has a catch radius similar to his former teammate’s. The switch from Ryan Tannehill (knee) to the more aggressive Cutler should be good news for Parker and not-so-good news for Jarvis Landry. The Parker hype is justified.
LeGarrette Blount was slow and ineffective for a second straight week, losing a fumble while gaining eight yards on five carries and 15 yards on two catches. Eagles coach Doug Pederson has since said he still expects Blount to be a big part of the offense, but don’t be surprised if the 250-pounder is limited to around 10 carries per game and/or finds himself on the hot seat early in the season. Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) reportedly has been the team’s best runner at camp on the few occasions when he’s been completely healthy. Smallwood practiced over the weekend and is trending in the right direction for the third preseason game.
Mike Evans impressed for a second straight week by catching five passes for 57 yards, though he only accounted for six of Jameis Winston’s 29 pass attempts (20.7 percent), after getting seven of 13 the previous week. The early returns still suggest Tampa Bay’s new weapons won’t have too much of an impact on Evans’ massive target share.
Blake Bortles and Chad Henne both stunk it up Thursday against Tampa, settling for check-downs and failing to move the ball. Bortles’ running ability made him useful in most leagues last season, but he seems to be regressing and should be avoided outside of two-QB formats even if he wins the job. Henne obviously falls somewhere in the bottom five of the QB rankings if he gets the nod.
Dalvin Cook took another step toward the lead role in Minnesota’s backfield with seven carries for 40 yards and one catch for 10 yards (three targets) Friday against Seattle. He got the start and clearly worked ahead of Jerick McKinnon, who lost six yards on his only carry and caught one pass for eight yards. With Latavius Murray (ankle) still working his way back, Cook essentially seems to have the Week 1 starting job locked down. I’d draft the Florida State product ahead of Leonard Fournette and Joe Mixon, approximately in the same range as Christian McCaffrey.
Speaking of which, Fournette (foot) and T.J. Yeldon (hamstring) both sat out this past week and already have been ruled out for the third preseason game, robbing us of a chance to evaluate Jacksonville’s backfield. Fournette is obviously the prized commodity among the trio, but his value is rightfully sinking due to concerns about the team’s ability to move the ball, in addition to the likelihood Yeldon and Chris Ivory will handle some touches.
With C.J. Prosise (groin) and Thomas Rawls (ankle) both absent, Eddie Lacy failed to take advantage of extended run with the first-team offense, gaining only 20 yards on six carries and three yards on one catch. Rawls is the favorite to start in what’s shaping up as a likely three-way timeshare.
Christian McCaffrey provided more fuel for the hype, taking three carries for 33 yards and a touchdown while also gaining 39 yards on two receptions. The Panthers will find a way to keep him busy even if Jonathan Stewart is technically the starter, though it’s fair to question how often McCaffrey will find the end zone in an offense that also features Stewart, Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. The rookie likely will have to do most of his scoring before the Panthers reach goal-to-go situations, just as he did Saturday against Tennessee.
Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill handled a pretty even split when Cincy’s first-team offense was on the field Saturday against KC, with the former getting five touches and the latter six. Mixon mostly worked with the starters but did get two more carries once A.J. McCarron entered the contest. Hill had the better night, gaining 28 yards on six carries while Mixon managed just 16 yards on six carries and 15 more on one catch.
Kareem Hunt seemed to have No. 2 role in KC locked down even before he had eight carries for 40 yards and three catches for 23 yards Saturday against the Bengals. The rookie is also said to be surprisingly polished as a pass blocker, which could eventually help him push Spencer Ware for the lead job. Meanwhile, Charcandrick West is left to compete with C.J. Spiller for the No. 3 job, despite rumbling for 113 yards on seven carries Saturday.
Colts rookie runner Marlon Mack mixed in with the first-team offense Saturday against Dallas, though only after Frank Gore and Robert Turbin had both taken carries. Mack picked up 10 and 13 yards on his first two totes, eventually finishing with 45 yards on five carries and 14 yards on two receptions. The rookie probably won’t have much of a role early on, but he’s the only option in the Indy backfield with any kind of explosiveness. That could pay off later in the year, especially if Gore suffers an injury or the Colts simply fall out of playoff contention.
Kenny Golladay followed a two-touchdown NFL debut by catching just one pass for six yards Saturday against the Jets, but he still may have gained ground in the battle for Detroit’s No. 3 receiver job when TJ Jones went down with a hamstring injury.
Samaje Perine redeemed his hideous showing from the preseason opener, taking eight carries for 45 yards and one catch for 29 yards Saturday against Green Bay. Jay Gruden seems pretty committed to Rob Kelley as the Week 1 starter, but this still bodes well for Perine’s early-season involvement.
Green Bay’s Jamaal Williams failed to take advantage of Ty Montgomery’s (leg) absence, gaining 12 yards on seven carries while primarily working with the first-team offense. WIlliams only had 14 yards on four carries in the preseason opener, but his pass blocking may be more important than his rushing results when it comes to earning playing time.
D'Onta Foreman followed a 41-yard run in the first week of the preseason with a 63-yard reception that was even more impressive, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien was quick to shut down the hype after the game. Foreman’s ability to shred third-string defenders won’t necessarily push him ahead of Alfred Blue for the No. 2 spot on the Week 1 depth chart. That said, Foreman should get some work this season and is talented enough to eventually make Lamar Miller expendable.
Rex Burkhead only gained 20 yards on seven carries, but he predictably looked excellent as a receiver, hauling in three passes for 50 yards and a score. Good luck figuring out the New England backfield before Week 1.
Todd Gurley operated as a three-down workhorse for a second straight week, this time making the most of his role with 50 yards and a touchdown on nine touches. The entire Rams offense looked excellent, and Gurley figures to be locked in as an every-down player so long as Lance Dunbar (knee) is sidelined. Dunbar remains out indefinitely…
Carlos Hyde dominated first-team work in a lifeless performance by the 49ers. He only had 26 yards on eight carries and yet vastly outperformed Tim Hightower, who didn’t get a touch until late in the second quarter and proceeded to fumble the ball away immediately. Joe Williams was a complete non-factor, taking one carry for one yard. Hyde is in little danger of losing the starting job early in the season, even though he hasn’t looked sharp through two exhibitions.