The Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings will kick off the 2015 NFL preseason in Canton, Ohio this Sunday. Generally in the preseason, especially this early, we hardly get to see any players who might be fantasy relevant this season. On the flip side, it is great to have live pro football back and see what players have developed in the offseason.
For the Minnesota Vikings I am really looking forward to how the wide receiver reps are divided up. Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace are the main starters right now, but there is some talent behind them that fans will want to keep an eye on. For Cordarrelle Patterson, this is showcase time, as he needs to prove to his coaches and more importantly himself that he has improved enough to make an impact in his third NFL season. This is a big preseason for Patterson, as the tools and athletic ability are there, but putting it all together has been the hardest part. Also, rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs should bring an explosive threat to the Vikings special teams unit, as well as take reps from the slot.
With running back Adrian Peterson no lock to suit up for game one, everyone will get a good look at his top backup, Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon flashed superstar ability in spurts as a rookie last season, and while he’ll have a limited role in 2015, it will be interesting to see the future of the position continue to improve. Defensively, Minnesota will begin to sort out it’s secondary, while they also may try to see if one of their young linebackers can finally push a regressing Chad Greenway out of the starting unit. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is obviously a main guy to monitor for several reasons, but he may not hit the field for long in this first preseason game.
As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who enter the preseason with expectations of being the number one offense in the NFL, I don’t expect to see much offensively. The Steelers have weapons already in place and fantasy owners are well aware of the trio Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger. Those guys won’t play much (if at all) in game one, so it’s more about their immediate backups and the young players fighting for a roster spot. I am interested to see if second year offensive weapon Dri Archer can create a role in this offense. An extremely explosive ‘tweener player, Archer has the ability to be used in multiple ways and should get ample opportunity this preseason. Pittsburgh also seems less than fully decided at wide receiver beyond Brown, so what happens with Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and rookie Sammie Coates will be very interesting to monitor.
It’s no secret the Steelers need most of their worst on defense, so that will be the main concern for Mike Tomlin and co. come August 9th. Young linebackers Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Alvin “Bud” Dupree will all try to prove their worth early, while Pittsburgh also has work to do to improve their secondary.
From a fantasy football perspective week one of the NFL preseason is nothing to get excited about – especially the Hall of Fame game. This game barely qualifies as part of the “week one” launch, as fewer starters play in these games historically than any other preseason contests. I expect the starters on both sides to get one full series, max, while many probably won’t even suit up. This is a time for players fighting for a roster spot to emerge from the pack and carve out a role this season. I will mostly be watching to see how the Vikings handle reps at the wide receiver position and how the Steelers handle Dri Archer. Week one of the preseason won’t provide us with many answers but watching guys battle it out for a final roster spot makes it well worth the watch Sunday evening.