Fantasy News & Analysis

Hall of Fame Game Recap: Immediate fantasy football takeaways from Thursday's game

2RFJ2YJ Cleveland Browns wide receiver Cedric Tillman (89) is tackled by New York Jets linebacker Jamien Sherwood (44), and cornerback Brandin Echols (26) during the first half of the Hall of Fame NFL football preseason game Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Both teams rested their starters: This included all of the starting skill players, including several important backups as well.
  • Rookie skill players gain experience: Browns third-round receiver Cedric Tillman and Jets fifth-round running back Israel Abanikanda both started and saw significant playing time.
  • New York Jets backup running backs don’t get a chance to fight for their job: The Jets have been rumored to sign Dalvin Cook, but Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight, who are projected to be the backups, didn’t play.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns 

Monitor the Browns' backup wide receiver competition: Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Elijah Moore didn’t play tonight, but the Browns' fourth and fifth backup spots are up for grabs.

  • David Bell was the clear third receiver last season but lost that spot after the team traded for Moore. He was one of the three starters Thursday night.
  • Cleveland spent a third-round pick on Cedric Tillman, who also started. His 15-yard catch was the biggest play for the Browns' offense in the first quarter, and his 20-yard catch was their biggest play of the second quarter. Tillman and Bell are the two most likely primary backups.
  • Tillman is worth considering in dynasty leagues. He could win the fourth job and be an injury away from significant playing time.
  • Daylen Baldwin started in the slot, but he suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter and was ruled out. 
  • The three players played above 2021 third-round pick Anthony Schwartz, who rotated in on the first drive. Schwartz had a lost fumble in the first quarter. He’s, at best, seventh on the depth chart and on the outside looking in for a roster spot.
  • 2021 sixth-round pick Demetric Felton Jr. was primarily a wide receiver last season but was the backup running back behind John Kelly tonight. He’s also in jeopardy of losing his roster spot.
  • Marquise Goodwin, Jaelon Darden and 2022 sixth-round pick Michael Woods all missed the game due to injury. The longer they are out, the less likely they are to make the roster.

Will the Jets sign Dalvin Cook?: The Jets surprisingly rested multiple running backs despite the fact that they could be fighting for their jobs.

  • There was a report by Mike Florio briefly before the game that talks between the Jets and Cook could heat up again after the game.
  • Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight were both among the players not playing. They are two of the three players fighting for the backup job behind Breece Hall, who also didn’t play.
  • Typically, a player that is healthy and not playing in the preseason is a good sign their job is secure, but it’s likely one, if not both, of the players would not make the roster if Cook is signed.
  • Fifth-round rookie Israel Abanikanda was the Jets' primary backup running back for the game but was largely inefficient playing behind the backup offensive line.
  • He scored the first touchdown of the 2023 NFL preseason on a 10-yard run in the second quarter.
  • None of the backups are worth considering as long as the Cook rumors continue. Once they are gone, we should get more information on how the team views Carter compared to Knight in future preseason games.

Jeremy Ruckert could complicate Tyler Conklin’s upside: Ruckert was among the players not playing for the Jets.

  • Ruckert was a third-round pick by the Jets in 2022 but only played in 48 offensive snaps as a rookie behind Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah.
  • Ruckert has gotten plenty of praise from head coach Robert Saleh, among others.
  • The fact that he didn’t play Thursday night despite playing so little last season is a good sign the Jets view him as a core player.
  • New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has a history of utilizing several tight ends dating back to his time with the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
  • Conklin is typically the 21st tight end off the board so not much is expected of him from a fantasy perspective. This is more evidence of why he can be left undrafted.

Miscellaneous notes

  • Browns running back Jerome Ford and wide receiver Jakeem Grant missed practices earlier in the week for personal reasons, which likely explains why they were ruled out before the game. Typically, Ford resting would be a positive sign for his role on the team, but in this case, it’s a non-story.
  • Cleveland has a battle between free agent addition Jordan Akins and incumbent Harrison Bryant for the backup tight end spot, but both players missed with injuries.
  • Malik Taylor appears to be the favorite for the sixth wide receiver spot if New York chooses to keep six receivers. He caught a 57-yard pass in the first quarter and led the Jets wide receivers in snaps with Zach Wilson. This would mean three of the top six Jets wide receivers are former Green Bay Packers.
  • The Jets players on offense most likely to start at some point were left tackle Mekhi Becton and right tackle Max Mitchell. Duane Brown is the projected starter at left tackle and is on the PUP list while Billy Turner was a free-agent addition and is likely fighting for the right tackle job.
  • Their only projected starter on defense was their third linebacker, Jamien Sherwood. He played 25 snaps late last season and graded out at 79.1 overall.
  • Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott was the only projected starter on offense or defense to play in this game.

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