The NFL preseason is in full gear, with teams heading into their second week of game action. The starters were on the field a bit longer, the anticipation for the regular season a little more palpable among the masses.
Thursday night's contests offered some more fantasy insight. What did we learn from these games? Several pertinent things.
After an offseason filled with injury concerns and a cautious preseason as a result, running back Trent Richardson finally got back into action against the Lions.
He looks just fine.
Richardson was more than spry, rushing the ball six times for 33 yards. One of those rushes was of the bruising, highlight-reel variety. On another play he was absolutely crushed by Ndamukong Suh on the sideline.
You can draft Richardson with confidence.
After a solid outing in the first week of the preseason, Michael Vick gave way to Nick Foles at quarterback this week.
Foles performed admirably against the Panthers, the lone blip being a bad interception in the back of the end zone. He made up for it with a touchdown run before Vick tagged in, finishing 6-of-8 for 53 yards.
Vick was even better, completing all but one of his 10 passes—a desperate heave at the end of the first half—for 105 yards. He also rushed the ball two times for 20 yards, flashing the upside he still may have as a fantasy option.
The chatter makes it seem like Foles is at a draw with Vick, but this is now two weeks Vick has looked better than his backup.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden looked good in this year's preseason debut. He looked even better on Thursday night against the Lions, finishing 8-of-12 for 117 yards and two TDs (137. rating).
Granted, the Lions aren't exactly world-beaters on defense, but Weeden once again showed poise, accuracy and a propensity to take deep shots.
Weeden threw some pretty passes, including a teardrop just over receiver Josh Gordon's shoulder for a 31-yard gain. The second-year quarterback capped that drive with a touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron that only the big tight end could catch.
A second touchdown to Cameron capped another nice night for Weeden, who is rapidly becoming a viable backup in fantasy leagues.
Well, this isn't really news—receiver Torrey Smith was a burner out of college.
But it was good to see Smith catch a slant and outrace the Falcons defense 78 yards for a touchdown. Smith was drafted for his speed, but he will be counted on as the top dog in Baltimore at receiver.
His touchdown catch wasn't exactly rocket science, but there will be plenty of opportunities for him to break more big plays when it counts.
Part of the reason Brandon Weeden looked so good was a nice performance from Josh Gordon.
The second-year pro caught three passes for 72 yards, including the aforementioned 31-yard strike from Weeden. He also made a juggling catch after he was interfered with by the defender. Unfortunately, the Browns will be without Gordon for the first two games of the season thanks to a suspension.
That makes him a bit of a discount in the fantasy realm, though—you can draft him and still potentially get 14 weeks of excellent scoring.
Folks have all but forgotten running back LeSean McCoy's 20-touchdown campaign from just two seasons ago. Perhaps this game will serve notice.
When you watch McCoy's ankle-severing 21-yard run versus the Panthers D, remember that he is being drafted as the eighth or ninth running back off the board in most leagues. That is about to change, but feel comfortable taking him wherever in the first round—yes, even first overall if that suits your fancy.
Hark. What's this I see? Ryan Mathews continuing a healthy preseason?
A stark contrast to a year ago—when the talented running back broke his clavicle on the first preseason carry of the year—the third-year back is having a fine preseason. Mathews carried the ball nine whole times without getting so much as a scratch, gaining 45 yards to boot.
This is good news for Mathews and those who might be brave enough to draft him. He might have set fire to thousands of fantasy rosters last season, but Mathews has some upside if his rookie season is any indication.
Once upon a time, there lived a small giant in the mythical land of Cleveland. The poor giant had trouble finding his way in the fantasy realm, stymied by others ahead of him.
But he has gotten his chance to shine, and this has made him a popular sleeper in the fantasy community for the better part of the offseason. "Sleeper" no more.
Tight end Jordan Cameron grabbed two touchdowns in a bit of a coming-out party against the Lions, including a leaping catch on a great pass from quarterback Brandon Weeden.
You might still be able to get the third-year tight end relatively late, but if preseason hype has meant anything in the past, Cameron just strapped a rocket to his average draft position.