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Last night was officially the beginning of the NFL’s 2016-2017 season. Keep in mind this was only the preseason, and we all know the first week of preseason usually means the starters will only play one, two, maybe three series at the most.
Even though some players got limited reps, it gives you an opportunity to check out some of the other players (mostly sleeper picks and rookies) who could make the difference on your fantasy squad come September.
Let’s take a look at some of last night’s notable stat lines in a segment we like to call:
The Good, The Bad, and The Rookies.
The Jacksonville Jaguars starting offence:
The Jags starters were very impressive last night. The Jags may have lost in the end but you got the feeling if their starters played the whole game they would have handled the New York Jets with ease. Blake Bortles has been a polarizing player for this year in fantasy, some (like myself) think he is a star, while others (like Callum) think he is a bust, but if he plays like he did last night, you are looking at a sure-fire QB1. Bortles finished 6-7 for 105 yards and 80 of those yards came from Allen Robinson who is looking more and more like a top five receiver.
The Jacksonville running game was equally impressive as both backs (currently listed as co-starters on the depth chart) ran effectively against the Jets. New addition Chris Ivory ran six times for 26 yards and a TD, while T.J. Yeldon also ran for 26 yards on four carries. While both stat lines show Ivory and Yeldon are worthy of being picked, Ivory punched in the TD and looks to be the goal line back giving him the edge for fantasy.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Broncos:
Mark Sanchez did his best to put some distance between himself and Trevor Siemian in the race to be the Denver Broncos starting QB. Sanchez looked good leading the Broncos to a 22-0 win over the listless Chicago Bears (seriously the Bears looked awful more and them later). Sanchez finished 10-13 for 99 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Sanchez’s TD came on a 32-yard bomb to a wide open Demaryius Thomas, and his interception came after a deflection by a Bears defender.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers:
Last year’s first-overall pick in the draft is a popular choice to have a break out year, and when he was in the game last night he looked very ready to take a step forward in his career. Winston went 7-9 for 97 yards and a TD. He did lose a fumble, but those passing stats look very enticing. Winston also has a plethora of weapons at his disposal down in Tampa and everyone down by the bay could be in for a big year offensively if Winston continues to grow.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Patriots
Last year it was Dion Lewis, the year before that, LeGarrette Blount. Can Gaffney continue the trend of Patriot running backs who come out of nowhere to have a big fantasy season? If he plays like he did last night, he might. The former sixth-round pick out of Stanford ran nine times for 64 yards and a touchdown. If he rips off more runs like his 44-yard TD run we could be seeing more Tyler Gaffney as the season goes on.
The Chicago Bears:
The Bears looked all sorts of bad against Denver. Now this could be just because the Broncos are that good (they are defending super bowl champs after all) but I think the Bears are just bad. QB Jay Cutler only threw four passes, completing three for 18 yards but he, along with all the Bears passers were under attack all night from the Broncos D. Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey (who was injured in this game) and rookie Jordan Howard could not run the ball at all, in fact the Bears leading rusher was third-string QB Connor Shaw with 14 yards. Star receiver Alshon Jeffery contributed one catch for 12 yards in limited action. If this is a sign of things to come, the Windy City could be in for a long season.
Washington Redskins running backs:
You want to see terrible running? Turn on the game tape of last night’s Falcons – Redskins game. The Redskins primary running backs Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and the speedy Keith Marshall combined for ZERO yards on eight carries. That is really all that needs to be said. I would highly recommend steering clear of any of these players come draft day.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons:
Sticking in the same game here, Matty “Ice” was just like his nickname in this one, ice cold. We should take this one with a grain of salt as Ryan was without stud WR Julio Jones but the Falcons QB went 0-4 throwing the ball and could not establish rhythm while under centre. This is also a small sample size so expect Ryan to rebound, but for now he lands on the “bad” list.
There were some standout rookies in last night’s game and this section is dedicated to discovering which rookies could play a major role moving forward in the regular season.
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints:
Drew Brees and the Saints love them some playmakers and Michael Thomas, second-round pick out of THE Ohio State University showed that he has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Thomas finished with four catches for 67 yards, but most importantly seems to be making a name for himself in New Orleans, which could mean big things down the line.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens:
The Ravens fourth rounder out of Louisiana Tech, like the aforementioned Thomas, showed flashes of what he can do on the football field. Dixon racked up 44 yards and nine carries and showed that if Justin Forsett cannot regain his old form he could be next in line for carries over the unproven Buck Allen.
The rookie QBs, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch:
The second and 26th overall picks in this year’s NFL draft took their first snaps as pros last night, and both the Eagles Carson Wentz and the Broncos Paxton Lynch showed signs that they are the franchise QB’s their clubs expect them to be, but their could be some growing pains along the way.
Wentz went 12-24 for 89 yards and a pick, while these numbers are not great he did show that he has a big arm and is not scared of trying to make plays down the field. His INT did come in the red zone but with more reps he should be able to improve his decision making.
Lynch on the other hand was quite steady in his Broncos debut. The Memphis product went 6-7 for 74 yards. He was sacked 3 times but he showed he can compete at the level and, like Wentz, should grow with more reps.