When it comes to fantasy football, the NFL preseason matters. Sure, production is overrated, and now more than ever, starters don’t play much (if at all). But watching what happens, who plays when, and who gets rested at the same time as other entrenched starters can help you project roles and, ultimately, value in fantasy football.
Matthew Freedman is here to share his top takeaways from the second weekend of NFL preseason games.
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Matthew Freedman’s NFL Preseason Week 2 Takeaways
Bears at Seahawks
- WR Equanimeous St. Brown played on 100% of QB Justin Fields‘ snaps and ran a route on 100% of his dropbacks. The Bears offense is unlikely to be a strong source of pass-catching production, but St. Brown — and not veteran Byron Pringle or rookie Velus Jones — might be the No. 2 wide receiver in Chicago.
- TE Noah Fant played on just 15 of QB Geno Smith‘s 29 snaps and ran a route on just 10 of his 20 dropbacks. Fant is not a full-time player.
Panthers at Patriots
- Backup RBs Chuba Hubbard (11 first-team snaps) and D’Onta Foreman (8) are still fighting for the No. 2 spot.
- The building hype for RB Ty Montgomery as a third-down replacement for the retired James White is real. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson played ahead of him, but of the three backs Montgomery played the most first-team snaps (10), ran the most first-team routes (6), saw the most first-team targets (1) and earned the most first-team carries (4), one of which was a goal-line touch he converted into a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Saints at Packers
- For the second week in a row, the Saints used a committee at tight end, so none of these guys is likely to be a big fantasy contributor — but it’s notable that for the second week in a row Juwan Johnson led the position in first-team snaps (10, 14) and first-team routes (7, 8) and actually saw more usage this week than he did last week. He could be a late-round best-ball flyer.
- With veterans Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins resting, rookie WR Romeo Doubs played 100% of QB Jordan Love‘s snaps and ran a route on 100% of his dropbacks. Doubs looks like the No. 4 wide receiver on the team.
Texans at Rams
- RB Dameon Pierce balled out in Week 1 (5-49-0 rushing) — and then he didn’t play any in Week 2, while veterans Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead did. Inference: The Texans don’t need to evaluate Pierce any more in the preseason because they already know that they like him, and they don’t want to risk him getting injured in the preseason because they know that he will be an important part of their offense in Week 1.
- Undrafted rookie wide receiver Lance McCutcheon dominated for the second game in a row (5-87-2 receiving on 6 targets last week, 5-96-0 on 6 targets this week). McCutcheon seems unlikely to beat out backup WRs Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell and Jacob Harris for a roster spot, but his odds of making the team are probably higher now than they were in July.
Broncos at Bills
- On the plus side TE Albert Okwuegbunam ran a route on 80% of the first-team dropbacks. On the negative side, Okwuegbunam was the team’s only ostensible first-team skill-position starter to play in Week 2. Translation: He doesn’t look like a “real” starter.
- WR Gabriel Davis played on 100% of QB Josh Allen‘s snaps and ran a route on 100% of his dropbacks. And slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie (7 first-team snaps, 4 first-team routes) played well ahead of free-agent acquisition Jamison Crowder (2, 1). Davis and McKenzie are strong favorites to play alongside No. 1 WR Stefon Diggs in three-wide sets.
Lions at Colts
- The Lions rested their skill-position starters in Week 2. Nothing to report except that WR Kalif Raymond (14) and RB Craig Reynolds (11) led their respective positions in first-team snaps. If someone ahead of them on the depth chart suffers an injury, they’ll likely be elevated to the starting lineup.
- With RBs Jordan Taylor and Nyheim Hines resting, veteran Phillip Lindsay easily led the backfield with 10 first-team snaps, which he leveraged into four carries and five routes. If either Taylor or Hines suffers an injury, Lindsay could enjoy better-than-expected usage.
Commanders at Chiefs
- WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Mecole Hardman (groin) both sat out Week 2, and in their absence veteran backup Justin Watson led the position by playing on 22 of QB Patrick Mahomes‘ 25 snaps and running a route on 17 of his 19 dropbacks. With that playing time, he put up a strong 2-53-0 receiving line on three targets. An athletic freak (4.44-second 40-yard dash at 6-2, 215 pounds), Watson finished his college career (at University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy Leagues) with three consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards receiving. Watson will probably never get an opportunity to be an NFL starter, but if he does he could be the Jeff Janis who actually lives up to his potential.
- First-round rookie WR Jahan Dotson tied veteran Terry McLaurin with a position-high 18 first-team snaps and 10 first-team routes. He’s the locked-in No. 2 receiver.
Buccaneers at Titans
Raiders at Dolphins
- Rookie RB Zamir White (11 first-team snaps) is still ahead of veteran Kenyan Drake (7), who now looks undraftable.
- “Starting” TE Mike Gesicki (9 first-team snaps) played in a committee with Durham Smythe (10). Gesicki could struggle with his inline-heavy role in new HC Mike McDaniel’s offense.
49ers at Vikings
- For the second week in a row, second-year RB Trey Sermon (9 first-team snaps) played ahead of rookie Tyrion Davis-Price (1). If veteran Jeff Wilson loses his role as the No. 2 back, Sermon could find himself as the thunder complement to starter Elijah Mitchell‘s lightning.
- Backup RB Alexander Mattison (8 first-team snaps) played well ahead of third-stringer Kene Nwangwu (1). If starter Dalvin Cook misses time this year — and Cook has never played a full season — Mattison will likely reprise his league-winning power-handcuff role.
Steelers at Jaguars
- Even though TE Evan Engram split first-team snaps with inline blocker Chris Manhertz (26 vs. 20), Engram ran a route on 20 of QB Trevor Lawrence‘s 24 dropbacks. He had just one target — but that kind of route usage is enough to make Engram a viable fantasy option.
- Rookie WR George Pickens (21 first-team snaps, 17 first-team routes) played ahead of third-year starter Chase Claypool (16, 10) … but both of them saw just one target. Volume magnet Diontae Johnson (25 first-team snaps, 18 first-team routes, 5 first-team targets) is still the true alpha receiver.
Cowboys at Chargers
- For the second week in a row, rookie TE Jake Ferguson led the position in first-team snaps (20 of 21 last week, 16 of 18 this week). Starter Dalton Schultz is playing on the franchise tag, and veteran backup Jeremy Sprinkle (Achilles) is dealing with an injury and signed to a cheap one-year contract. If Sprinkle gets cut, Ferguson could be the No. 2 tight end this year. And if Schultz leaves in free agency, Ferguson could be the No. 1 tight end next year.
- Once again, veteran RBs Larry Rountree (13 first-team snaps) and Joshua Kelley (11) played well ahead of rookie Isaiah Spiller (2). I still believe that Spiller is the most talented and complete of the three backs, but he’s ulikely to make an impact early in the regular season.
Data from PFF
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