Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Football is back! Well, sort of. Once Thursday’s Hall of Fame game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears kicks off, the 2018-2019 NFL season will be underway. Well, only partially. Alright, love it or hate it, the NFL is back even if it is “just the preseason.” I speak of it highly, I know, but you won’t find many people in the fantasy football industry without their eyes and ears tuned in to the games taking place over the next month despite it not actually counting towards anything official. For fantasy owners, they know the extent of the effect that preseason games can have on the upcoming fantasy season. Look no further than this run by Ameer Abdullah in Week 1 of the 2015 preseason. Oh, the amount of hype generated by that single play. Following that 45-yard run, by the start of the season Adbullah had seen his 2015 ADP rise to the late 6th Round, only a few spots after incumbent Lions starter Joique Bell. The thought process of this being that Abdullah was a rookie RB with RB1 potential in a Detroit offense looking to replace Reggie Bush – only for Abdullah to finish as an RB3 while also being outscored by Detroit’s passing down back, Theo Riddick. While not a historic shift in regard to fantasy drafts, all it took was one game for Abdullah to go from a late-round rookie flier in drafts to a draft position citing FLEX weekly flex consideration. This is just one example of the impact the NFL preseason has on fantasy football. With that said, let’s look at some things to watch for in Thursday’s Hall of Fame game:
Ravens vs. Bears
Ready. Set. Lamar Jackson.
The rookie appropriately nicknamed “Action Jackson” is set to take the field in his first NFL game on Thursday against the Bears. While the training camp rumors surrounding where Ravens franchise quarterback Joe Flacco stands regarding rookie Lamar Jackson have been varied, on Thursday things will take on a whole new look as Jackson will have the stage mostly to himself. It will be exciting to see how much of the playbook the Ravens supply Jackson with as he looks to put both his rushing and passing ability to use in the NFL.
The Former 1st Rounders
Both Bears WR Kevin White and Ravens WR Breshad Perriman were drafted in the 1st Round of the 2015 NFL Draft and both missed the entirety of their rookie seasons due to injuries. In just 32 games played by both players since then, they have combined for just:
- 141 targets
- 64 receptions (31 players had more in 2017)
- 769 yards (38 players had more in 2017)
- 3 receiving touchdowns (109 players had 3 or more in 2017)
Needless to say, both players will enter Thursday night looking to begin shaking off their “bust” labels and fighting for their respective roster spots. With both Perriman and White healthy, maybe their talent can finally shine through.
The Other Rookie
Coming out of Memphis as an All-American wide receiver, Anthony Miller has created a lot of buzz during training camp. To some, Miller was even seen as the best wide receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft. With rumors of starting in the slot Week 1 for Chicago already swirling around as well, Miller will get the first chance to cement himself as the best wide receiver in this year’s rookie class on Thursday night against Baltimore.
Too Many Tight Ends
Both Baltimore and Chicago will enter Thursday night with quite a few tight ends fighting for roster spots on each team. For Baltimore, they drafted two TEs in the 2018 draft, 1st Rounder Hayden Hurst and 3rd Rounder Mark Andrews to go with 2017 roster holdovers in Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, and Vince Mayle. It highly unlikely that Baltimore will keep more than three of them, so the preseason should see the depth chart sort itself out. For Chicago, with the loss of Zach Miller already set, they went out and brought in Trey Burton from Philadelphia to likely step in as the starting TE. This leaves second-year player Adam Shaheen and Dion Sims competing for the backup role while Daniel Brown and Brian Bruanecker fight for the likely final roster spot.