Most of the relevant preseason games have passed and we have learned a lot about some teams and virtually nothing about others. Some players that perform well in the preseason will have little to no impact on the regular season. Let’s address some of the most important things we have seen in the preseason and some of the guys that you have never heard of who have impressed.
The rising stocks
Christian McCaffrey has been great in the preseason, posting 3 impressive performances in short appearances. In game 1, McCaffrey played on 14 of the first team’s 14 snaps and got 6 touches (4 rushes and 2 receptions). This possible workload was a really interesting thing to look into. The next 2 weeks, this has continued. McCaffrey is playing like the Panthers bell-cow back and even getting goal-line carries. He carried the ball 8 times in the first possession for Carolina in their first series in game 3, which really shows how much work he could get. CMC has 21 rushes for 151 yards and 8 catches for 73 yards in probably slightly fewer snaps than he would get in a full regular season game. I don’t think you can project him to get THIS much work, but he may be close
JuJu Smith-Schuster has been one of the best regular season players in the preseason. He has produced 8 catches for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns in limited work this season. JuJu is clearly too talented to run against any backups and has exploited that when he is in there. Obviously, we haven’t seen Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell in these games, so we can’t project JuJu to do this every game, but I think he may go undervalued. The Steelers offense should be insanely dynamic this season and I believe they won’t need to lean nearly as heavily as they used to on Le’Veon and Antonio as they used to. JuJu should steal even more of that production this year.
The Chiefs have shown us more than most teams have this preseason. Andy Reid wanted to see a lot of his first-team offense with Mahomes at the helm. Tyreek Hill is clearly the guy for Mahomes. First of all, they compliment each other perfectly. Hill runs by everyone and Mahomes throws it over everyone. Go watch the play before halftime in preseason game 2 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Hill has put up 182 yards on 14 catches and a TD in what probably equates to just under a game and a half of snaps. I think Hill is probably ready for a breakout year. Reports are that Mahomes and Watkins don’t really seem in-sync and that is what the preseason has shown as well. Watkins is easily the 4th option in this offense as of now.
John Kelly is a guy that is inching his way into season-long considerations as a guy that is clearly talented if Gurley were to go down. Kelly has rushed for almost 200 yards in the preseason on 46 carries. He has also caught 2 dump-offs in each game that haven’t amounted to much. Kelly is clearly someone the Rams have tried to work in heavily and is vying for a second string spot at this point.
Javon Wims has had a few big games in the preseason in a competition to make the roster. Wims posted 7 catches for 89 yards in the Hall of Fame game and then posted 4 catches for 114 yards and a TD in week 3. He has made a few impressive catches and seems like he should be able to work his way onto the roster if the Bears are trying to pick the best player available.
The season is almost here!