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:
Cedric Tillman (WR - Cleveland Browns) - vs NYJ, 8:00 PM on NBC
It'll be our first look at rookie WR Cedric Tillman in an NFL uniform tonight. Selected in the 3rd round of the 2023 NFL Draft (73rd overall), Tillman is coming off a down (and injury-riddled) 2022 collegiate season that saw him feature in just 6 games after an excellent Junior season in 2021 with over 1,000 yards and 12 TDs.
Tillman will likely be running with the 2's (and possibly get some time with the 3's) in the preseason opener, currently slotted in as a backup WR behind Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones on the outside (with Elijah Moore in the slot).
What we'll really see is where within the pecking order of the 2's he is, relative to the likes of Anthony Schwartz, Marquise Goodwin, and Jakeem Grant in a rather deep Browns' receiving corps. Less action, especially in comparison to those WRs, means more for his likely involvement in 2023.
Israel Abanikanda (RB - New York Jets) - vs CLE, 8:00 PM on NBC
Abanikanda is another rookie likely making his preseason debut tonight, drafted in the 5th round (143rd overall) in the 2023 Draft out of Pitt after a very strong senior campaign with just shy of 1,600 total yards and 21 TDs.
Currently competing for the RB3 spot behind Breece Hall and Michael Carter with Zonovan Knight, there's a lot of uncertainty with the Jets' backfield and what opportunities may be presented in 2023. With Hall on the PUP List from his ACL tear (and the potential to miss the beginning of the season due to such) and Dalvin Cook leaving his visit with the Jets without a contract (even with the potential to still sign), it leaves just Michael Carter and Abanikanda as the notable RBs in New York right now.
I'm excited to see how involved he is tonight. Similar to Tillman, less will likely mean more for Abanikanda as a limited workload in the HOF game, especially relative to his spot on the depth chart, could imply the Jets are more likely to stand pat with their current RB situation and potentially offer a role to Abanikanda as a rookie.
Demetric Felton (RB - Cleveland Browns) - vs NYJ, 8:00 PM on NBC
The Browns' backfield is a major question mark beyond the obvious in Nick Chubb, now seeing the opening of the potential handcuff/RB2 role with the departure of Kareem Hunt this offseason.
Jerome Ford is currently slotted in as the unofficial RB2 in the backfield to open the preseason, but I am more intrigued by Felton's prospects, even if he enters the season as the "RB3" on the depth chart. The reasoning: his receiving abilities.
As an RB/WR hybrid type of player, Felton has the opportunity to carve out a notable role this season in the receiving game with the departure of Hunt and Nick Chubb's relative inability to produce as a receiver.
I'm looking forward to seeing how much time Ford & Felton get tonight (as well as whether it is a definitive 1-2 or a 1A-1B situation) as well as seeing if/how involved Felton is schemed into the receiving game.