Throughout the preseason, we heavily emphasize identifying potential impact players throughout the season that others may not recognize as they aren't necessarily "stars". In our 'Preseason Players to Watch' series, we highlight potentially noteworthy players in each night's game(s) that may be impactful for fantasy football, both in the 2022 season and beyond.
Here are our top players to watch for in tonight's preseason action:
Sam LaPorta (TE- Detroit Lions) - vs NYG, 7:00 PM
LaPorta has been tearing up camp since he stepped foot in Detroit, seeing "as many reps as possible" throughout the offseason and working his way up to consistently receiving first-team reps.
His rise to the spot as TE1 in Detroit, the draft capital invested in him (2nd round, 34th overall), and the prior production of T.J. Hockenson before the trade to Minnesota all align for a potentially significant role for LaPorta, even as a rookie.
It'll be very interesting to see how much work (and when) LaPorta sees action in the preseason opener, and a strong preseason could see his price skyrocket come draft day if he shows the promise that has been spoken of him all offseason.
Bijan Robinson (RB - Atlanta Falcons) - vs MIA, 7:00 PM
Bijan has been listed as the RB3 on Atlanta's opening preseason depth chart behind Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allegeier, which came as a surprise to many, especially after being taken with the 8th overall pick in the 2023 Draft.
That may simply be Head Coach Arthur Smith making the rookie 'earn his spot' as the lead back without directly giving him the starting reigns, but at the very least, the decision to label him the RB3 will give us the purest look at Bijan in the preseason.
Him being listed as the third-string RB means one of two things:
1) If he sees notable preseason action, he truly has to earn the lead duties and likely won't get the workhorse role we all anticipated in Week 1.
2) If he sees very limited preseason action (especially relative to Patterson/Allegeier), he's almost certainly walking into a 300+ touch workload as a rookie.
Antonio Gibson (RB - Washington Commanders) - vs CLE, 7:30 PM
It's not confirmed, but it's anticipated that Antonio Gibson sees action in Washington's preseason opener against Cleveland, especially after the heavy usage of both Gibson and Brian Robinson in the 2022 preseason.
The script is now flipped for those two entering the 2023 preseason with Brian Robinson slotted in as the starter and Gibson slotted in as the RB2, also projecting as the starting kick returner for the Commanders.
It was Gibson's major preseason struggles on the ground last year (6 carries, 5 yards, 1 fumble lost) that ultimately paved the way for Brian Robinson to take over as the starter upon his return early in 2022. A strong preseason this year would likely command a substantial workload for Gibson, which could prove very promising within a favorable Eric Bieniemy offense.
I am very much watching for Gibson's role within the Bieniemy offense that, if he sees the role we are anticipating (similar to that of Jerick McKinnon in recent years in Kansas City), he could be a sneaky option for fantasy.