Fantasy: Takeaways from Thursday's preseason games
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Get ready for your season with theScore's 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

Every game night during the preseason, theScore's Justin Boone gets you caught up on the most important fantasy performances from around the league.

Barkley flashes elite skills

It only took one preseason snap for Saquon Barkley to dazzle prospective fantasy owners. The second overall pick in April's draft took the Giants' opening play 39 yards, showing Le'Veon Bell-like hesitation in the backfield before breaking outside at the second level and racing down the sideline.

It's surprising to see Barkley finding room to run on the right side, which is the weaker section of the Giants' offensive line. New York beefed up at left tackle and left guard in the offseason by adding free agent Nate Solder and rookie Will Hernandez. If the rest of the line can provide even adequate blocking, Barkley's ceiling will be lifted even higher.

It's also worth noting that Barkley's other four carries went for a total of 4 yards, but with the explosiveness he displayed on his first touch, combined with a guaranteed heavy workload in 2018, Barkley is well worth taking in the latter half of the first round of fantasy drafts.

Guice to undergo MRI

It wasn't sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows for every rookie back on Thursday night. The good news is that signs indicate this is a precautionary MRI for rookie Derrius Guice, who was seen talking to teammates after having his knee evaluated by trainers.

The injury occurred on a 34-yard run, where Guice found a massive lane and was able to get downfield with a spin move and a stiff arm. Unfortunately, the play was called back due to a holding penalty and Guice limped off the field.

Guice eventually walked to the locker room without a limp, and downplayed the injury postgame. His final stat line was six carries for 19 yards. If he were to miss time, pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson would see his value return, as would early-down banger Samaje Perine, who should beat out Rob Kelley for backup duties.

Barber leading Bucs' backfield

There's a long way to go before regular-season starters are locked in, but Peyton Barber saw a lot of action with the Buccaneers' first-team offense and looked good in the process. Barber posted 21 yards and a score on four carries, while catching both his targets.

The same can't be said for Ronald Jones, who managed 9 yards on eight rushes with a TD, and dropped the lone pass attempt thrown his way. This is consistent with reports out of camp, which suggest Barber has been outplaying his rookie teammate.

It's notable considering Jones is being selected in the fifth round, with Barber being taken in the 13th. Though Barber's stock will likely rise with this performance, he's the back I'd rather own in Tampa.

Mixon earning his stripes

After a disappointing rookie campaign that ended with 626 rushing yards, 287 receiving yards, and four touchdowns, the Bengals are hoping improvements to their offensive line can help Joe Mixon reach his potential.

Lining him up out wide and getting him the ball in space is a good way to help their cause, and the results can be seen below, with Mixon breaking a pair of tackles with a stiff arm and a spin en route to a 24-yard score.

Gio Bernard will remain involved - the veteran had 23 yards on four carries - but Mixon is an intriguing breakout candidate even at his second-round ADP. If left tackle Cordy Glenn stays healthy, the Bengals will have solved one of their biggest issues in 2017, paving the way for their entire offense to bounce back.

Benjamin backs up his talk

Cam Newton didn't waste any time confronting Kelvin Benjamin during the pregame warmup in an effort to make his former wideout answer for the critical comments about him earlier in the week. Benjamin wasn't interested in talking with Newton, instead choosing to let his play speak for itself.

Benjamin hauled in four passes on the opening drive, tallying 59 yards, and capped it off with a 28-yard touchdown. Despite the tense meeting with Newton prior to the game, the Bills receiver looked very relaxed during his celebration.

Drafting any Bills players in 2018 is a risky fantasy investment. However, as the WR44 going off the board in the 10th round, Benjamin does offer WR3 upside. Let's hope he criticizes more opposing quarterbacks this season.

Instant Impressions

  • Sophomore tight end David Njoku had a big night, catching touchdowns from both Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. It's important to qualify that his opponents were the Giants, who've been unable to defend tight ends for some time, but this outing was the most recent positive pointing to a breakout. Njoku is one of the most physically gifted players at his position, and Taylor leaned on his former tight end Charles Clay in Buffalo, with Clay seeing a 20 percent target share over the last two years. Njoku has as good a chance as anyone to join the top-10 fantasy tight ends this year.

  • Injuries are the worst part of preseason football. In addition to Guice leaving early on Thursday night, several other noteworthy fantasy names had their nights cut short. Marlon Mack exited with a hamstring injury, which could open the door for rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. 49ers tight end George Kittle went to the locker room with a shoulder injury after falling hard with a couple of Cowboys defenders landing on him during an incompletion deep down the field. Kittle's teammate Matt Breida also left the game with a shoulder injury, though it didn't seem to be as serious.
  • On a more encouraging injury-related note, it was nice to see Andrew Luck back on the field and leading scoring drives. The Colts QB set up a pair of field goals, going 6-for-9 for 64 yards in his return to action. His ADP is going to move up from here, so hopefully, you enjoyed the discount while it lasted.
  • Despite all the talk from the Panthers' coaching staff about an increased workload for Christian McCaffrey, it was still a bit shocking to watch him convert a goal-line carry for a 2-yard touchdown. The thought of Carolina committing to McCaffrey as a between-the-tackles runner and limiting C.J. Anderson's role is enticing, but it’s still hard to imagine McCaffrey staying healthy as workhorse over a 16-game schedule in the pros.
  • John Ross finally did something on an NFL field. With Brandon LaFell no longer blocking his path to playing time, Ross racked up 20 yards, making a defender miss on a catch-and-run. He also very nearly came down with a touchdown in the back of the end zone. Ross was one of the players we discussed in our preseason scouting list and with a good August, he has a chance to establish himself as the Bengals' second option in the passing game.
  • Jamaal Williams is trying to make his case to be the Packers' full-time starter at running back. He found the end zone on an 8-yard catch, where he reversed course near the boundary, sliced past the defender, and dove into the end zone. Williams often looks pedestrian as a runner - he averaged 3.2 yards on five carries Thursday - but with Aaron Jones dealing with a hamstring injury and facing a two-game suspension, Williams has a shot to win this job outright. Jones has a higher ceiling, but he’s falling behind.
  • It was a memorable night for rookie wide receivers, as several young wideouts delivered on their debuts. D.J. Moore (4 receptions, 75 yards) showed video-game quickness, Michael Gallup (1 reception, 30 yards, TD) began his ascension to becoming a weekly contributor in Dallas, Dante Pettis (1 reception, 53 yards) flashed his deep speed, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5 receptions, 101 yards, TD) made his case to be the Packers' third receiver. Moore and Gallup could be immediate fantasy starters, while Pettis and MVS are excellent best-ball targets this season.
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Fantasy: Takeaways from Thursday's preseason games
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