What We Learned: 2021 Preseason
Check back here every week to listen to Tim: analyze what we saw, discuss who's trending up or down, and jump to some wild conclusions.
1. A week of career-highs
Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, Chris Godwin, Jared Goff. The one thing they have in common? They all had career games in week four.
Fournette made his presence felt against the Broncos, finishing with a career-high 225 yards on 29 carries, as well as two receptions for 20 yards. The man was running wild. He broke free for an 81-yard rush in the third quarter, the second time in two weeks he’s had a run for 69 yards or more. Fournette has always been involved in the Jags passing game, but this season he seems to be stepping it up in that department. He has 16 catches through four games, which means he's on pace to catch 64 balls this season, which would nearly double his career high of 36 receptions in 2017. Fournette had some of us worried but he showed us he’s, without a doubt, still a franchise back.
Speaking of franchise backs, how about Nick Chubb? Chubb recorded 23 touches on his way to 183 scrimmage yards, and a career-high three rushing TD's and 39.3 PPR points. While the game is impressive, its not even Chubb's career-high in scrimmage yards, and his 88-yard TD run isn't a career high either. In week 10 last season, Chubb finished with 209 total yards on 23 touches, and recorded a 92-yard TD run. While Chubb's 88 yarder may not be a career-high, it was certainly a season high, for any player. The Browns now have the longest pass (89 yards) and the longest run (88 yards) of the 2019 season.
Chris Godwin also enjoyed a career game, his 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TD's didn't earn him as many fantasy points as Mike Evans monster game last week, but it was more points than Godwin has ever scored in a game before. In fact, his 12 receptions and 171 yards are both career-highs After Evans exploded last week and established himself as Tampa Bay's targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns leader, many were quick to assume there would be a changing of the guard... Including me (see Week 4, WR Sit of the Week: Chris Godwin). But we could not have been more wrong. Some weeks may be more Evans than Godwin, and vice versa, but both are legit, both are here to stay, and both should finish well above 1,000 yards when it's all said and done.
Thanks to Godwin and the Bucs, Jared Goff and the Rams were playing catch up all afternoon. Goff ended up throwing for a MASSIVE 517 yards on 68 pass attempts. Both career-highs. Goff tied Tom Brady for the sixth-most passing yards in a single game in NFL history. He finished just 37 yards shy of the record (554). Yet, somehow, Goff finished with just 20 fantasy points. Turning the ball over four times definitely didn't help (3 INT, 1 FUM). It hasn't exactly been pretty for the Rams this season. They came in to the game against the Buccaneers averaging one full touchdown less than they did last season. It was encouraging to see them put up as many yards and points as they did though. Robert Woods and Todd Gurley both benefitted from Goffs big day, finishing with their best statistical and fantasy outputs of the season. I wouldn't expect Goff to throw for 500 every week, but it's certainly plausible to expect them to build on what they were able to accomplish in week four.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin scores past Los Angeles Rams linebacker Troy Reeder and cornerback Aqib Talib during the first of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) [MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ | AP]
2. Fantasy irrelevant TD's left and right.
Foster Moreau, Troymaine Pope, Trevor Davis, Ito Smith, Ricky Seals-Jones, Branden Bolden, Devante Parker, Jack Doyle, Miles Boykin, AJ Brown. DId you recognize any of those names? Maybe a few. Did you start any of them in fantasy? I certainly hope not.
If you were crazy enough to, however, it would have payed off on Sunday as this collection of fantasy undesirables accounted for the first TD's of week four. I can't say for sure, but if I had to guess I bet less than five percent of people played any of those guys this week.
Out of all those names, I’ll go on the record and say I think AJ Brown is the real deal. In week one, Brown had 100 yards on just three catches. He was quiet in weeks two and three, but burst back on to the scene with another three catches for 94 yards and 2 TD's in week four. Obviously volume is a concern, considering Brown has yet to top three receptions in a game so far. But he passes the eye test. He's got size, speed, hands, moves after the catch, etc. The talent is undeniable, and any replay of his week one or week four highlights will jump off the screen. The thing is, he's not exactly in the best position to prosper. If you read the TNF takeaways last week, you know I'm not a huge fan of Mariota, and you know I'm not the biggest believer in his ability to produce consistently. If you missed it, here's a recap:
Each year since 2016 Mariota has seen his yardage and touchdown totals decrease. Last season, he recorded a career-low in pass yards (2,528) and touchdowns (11). In 14 games last year, Mariota only threw 11 touchdowns. In those 14 games, he recorded less than 200 yards passing in eight of them, less than 130 in seven of those!
As long as Brown is on the Titans, and Mariota is his QB, I don't see Brown as anything more than a boom-or-bust flex option. I mean, how long have we been waiting for Corey Davis to be a thing? Temper your expectations is all I'm saying.
3. Shady is the common denominator in the Chiefs backfield
Damien Williams, Darrell Williams, Darwin Thompson... It doesn’t matter who the Chiefs list as their starter, LeSean McCoy is not going away. For the second week in a row, Shady has scored a touchdown, despite being listed as number two on the depth chart. He now has at least 11 touches in every game. Week four marked the third time this season Shady accumulated at least 80 total yards. He's got three TD's and 39.9 PPR points in the past two weeks. Regardless of who the Chiefs list as their number one, Shady is worthy of a flex spot going forward.
4. The Titans/Bills defenses are legit
The Tennessee Titans continue to hold their opponents to surprisingly low point totals. After a week four performance where they held the Atlanta Falcons to just 10 points, the Titans are allowing an average of just 15.5 points to opposing offenses. Only the Cowboys, Bears, and Patriots have held opponents to fewer points than the Titans (62) this season. Even with Matt Ryan throwing for 374 yards, they managed to only let up 10 points. What's more impressive than that, is the fact that they held Julio Jones in check (four catches, 52 yards). Jones's streak of seven straight games with a touchdown catch came to a screeching halt in week four. I view them as a top-five fantasy defense, especially for the next two weeks (vs. Buffalo and Denver).
While we're on the subject of 2019's most impressive defenses, how bout them Bills? In four quarters, the Bills held Tom Brady to 150 yards passing (46 percent completion percentage), zero TD's (no less than two in any game this season prior to this game), and caused his first interception of the season. It was ugly. They held the New England Patriots to just 16 points after they had scored no less than 30 in the previous three games. In fact, the Bills have allowed just one more point to opponents this season than the Titans (63).
Next week these two teams with formidable defenses, and sub-par offenses will square off in what is set to be possibly the most boring game we've seen in recent history. They might actually tie each other 3-3. Either way, I'm starting both of their defenses in week five.
5. Mahomes held without a TD, comes back to earth
Finally, Patrick Mahomes was held without a TD. Mahomes still threw for 300+ yards, helped the Chiefs put 34 points on the board, and led his team to a win in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t always pretty. The Lions frustrated Mahomes like few defenses are capable of. They took away the deep pass, a staple of Mahomes's game. In week four, he was 0-6 on deep passes. Prior to the game against the Lions, he was 12/19 for 469 yard and six TD's on deep passes. They held Mahomes to a passer rating of 81, a significant drop off of his 135.4 average entering this game, and the third-lowest passer rating in a game of his career. The second-worst if you don't count his first NFL start in week 17 of 2017.
Although I love to watch Mahomes ball out, it feels almost comforting to know no player is bigger than the game. Regardless of a down game, I still view him as the undisputed number one QB in fantasy.
6. Odell no catches going into the 4th
Odell Beckham Jr. finished his week four game against the Ravens with just two catches for 20 yards. It was his former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry who stole the show (8 catches, 167 yards). Landry was knocked out the game in the third quarter with an injury, yet Beckham was still rendered ineffective. To be fair, the Browns were ahead for most of the game. Nick Chubb was so effective on the ground that the Browns hardly needed to throw. Still the Browns dropped 40 points, Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards, and Odell only accounted for 20 of them? Not great Cotton.
20 yards is the fewest Beckham has ever had in a game since entering the league in 2014. I wouldn't necessarily call it time to panic just yet. He had no less than six receptions or 56 yards this season prior to his flop against the Ravens. If Landry misses time, he should get even more attention. This performance is likely nothing but a blip on the radar. I still view Beckham as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver.
7. Is there a blueprint to shutdown Watson/Hopkins?
Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins were bottled up for the second time this season. The interesting part about it is that their totals in week four were nearly identical to their totals in week two.
In week two, Watson threw for 159 yards and zero TD's, but rushed for a short score (12 fantasy points). In week four, Watson threw for 160 yards and zero TD's, but rushed for a short score. In week two Hopkins finished with five catches for 40 yards, his longest gain was 14 yards. In week four, Hopkins finished with five catches for 41 yards, his longest gain was 14 yards. Despite finishing with one more yard, Hopkins had fewer fantasy points in week four because he somehow managed to throw an interception.
Now, the two defenses that held the Texans to these sub-par totals were not exactly pushover teams. The defenses of the Jaguars and Panthers are no joke. You could chalk it up to bad matchups. But the NFL is a copycat league, if the Watson/Hopkins combo has already been contained twice this season, I’ve got to assume there’s a blueprint in place. Of course, to make the blueprint work you'd probably need a defense as good as, or better than the two opponents that have held them in check so far. I will never sit Hopkins, and I will never tell anyone else to. But I fear Watson may be matchup dependent going forward.
8. Kerryon Johnson delivers a workhorse performance
In week four against the Chiefs, Kerryon Johnson finished with 28 touches for 157 total yards. He lost did lose a fumble in this game on a bizarre play, but I wouldn’t even call that his fault. Fumble or not, it’s great to see Johnson get 20 plus touches two weeks in a row. Clearly the release of CJ Anderson has meant Detroit has all the confidence in the world in him and it shows. Johnson displayed the skill set of a true workhorse back on Sunday.
He runs, he catches the ball out of the backfield (seven catches for 99 yards after four weeks), and he's solid in pass protection. Johnson is playing by far the most snaps and is getting a vast majority of touches amongst Lions RB's. It’s only a matter of time before the touchdowns follow and when they do, you won’t want to be playing against him.
9. Daniel Jones: A work in progress
Daniel Jones shocked the world in week three with his record setting performance, but what followed the next week was less surprising. He showed us all: he’s still a rookie. After scoring four total TD's and throwing no INT in week three, he was humbled with a 225-yard, 1 TD, 2INT performance, he should have a third interception but luckily for him the defender couldn’t hold on.
Although he's still making clutch plays with his legs (33 rush yards per game), we might need to pump the breaks a bit on Danny Dimes for now. I say give him some time to grow. I wouldn’t expect consistent fantasy superstardom from him just yet. He’s going to have weeks like this where his lack of experience becomes apparent. But if the matchup is right why not fire him up? Although, I suppose the matchup was right this week, wasn't it?
10. Will Dissly is a thing
With his 7-57-1 TD game against the Cardinals in week four, Dissly now has four TD's in his last three games. He's also seen his catch totals increase each week (five in week two, six in week three, seven in week four). He has a touchdown, at least five catches and fifty yards receiving three games in a row. The last six tight ends to do this all finished the season as a top-four fantasy tight end. (I stole that little nugget from Matthew Berry). He's caught over 86 percent of his targets this season (that one too).
Clearly the Seahawks have enough confidence in him that they traded away their third-round back up. This offense looks good and Russell Wilson is playing very good football this season (10 total TD's, one fumble). Don't forget, the last time Jimmy Graham played a full season with Wilson he caught 10 TD's and finished as TE5 in fantasy.
Surprisingly enough, there is a solid amount of depth at tight end this year, and if you missed out on guys like Darren Waller or Mark Andrews on the waiver wire, this week may be your last chance to grab Dissly before he becomes an undisputed top-ten fantasy TE. He's rostered in 67.4 percent of ESPN leagues, I suggest you check and see if he's available in yours.
Will Dissly has three games in a row of at least five catches, 50 yards and a TD. (Getty)
Tim Brosnan, Fantasy Sports Analyst/Freelance Journalist
Tim Brosnan is a college-educated sports journalist from the New Haven, Connecticut area.
Brosnan earned his Bachelor's Degree from Castleton University where he majored in Media & Communication, with a focus in Journalism.
During his tenure as the sports editor of the Castleton Spartan newspaper, Brosnan created the segment 'Tim's Fantasy Tips'. It began as a simple weekly start/sit column, but since then, the idea has grown into so much more.
Brosnan has taken his experience/passion for fantasy football and combined it with his journalistic know-how in order to bring you a completely original, well-informed, multi-layered fantasy football advice experience.
We hope you enjoy.