NFL Preseason Week 3 Fantasy Takeaways
Historically, the third week of NFL preseason action has been the unofficial dress rehearsal for most teams. That was still the case for many teams, but several clubs chose to use this week to perhaps get another final look at bubble players in action before the preseason ends and final roster decisions must be made. It made for a hodgepodge of NFL action. Here are some of the things I took away from Week 3 of the NFL preseason from a fantasy perspective.
NFL Preseason Week 3 Takeaways
Cleveland 5, Philadelphia 0
The Indians shut out the Phillies on Thursday night behind… oh, sorry. I got confused by the score. This was, in fact, an NFL preseason football game. This wasn’t really the dress rehearsal either team had in mind. The Eagles rested most of their starters and it showed. Nick Foles threw two bad interceptions and the Eagles allowed seven sacks. Wendell Smallwood was really the only back who got work in this game, finishing with 53 yards on 12 rushes. He should make final cuts but is not worth a roster spot in Fantasy.
The Browns escaped disaster when starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor returned to action following a trip to the sidelines to tend to an injured left hand. Backup Baker Mayfield also left early after suffering what was thought to be a concussion and did not return, though he did pass the concussion protocol. Carlos Hyde ran well, carrying the ball seven times for 45 yards. He now has 108 yards on 17 preseason carriers and remains the favorite for early-down work. After finishing last season as an RB1, Hyde is being drafted as a mere Flex play due to the presence of Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson. Hyde could be a bargain in drafts this year.
New York Giants 22, New York Jets 16
The starters played the first half for the Giants, and Eli Manning looked good. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 188 yards. Sterling Shepard caught all seven of his targets, but it should be noted that Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham sat this one out. Shepard is a solid mid-round pick but will have low-volume weeks. Evan Engram left with a concussion but is expected to be ready for the season opener.
Sam Darnold again got the start and showed flashes. The rookie finished with 86 yards and a touchdown but completed just half of his 16 throws. It seems likely that Darnold will win the starting job, but Teddy Bridgewater had another nice outing. Bridgewater was 11 for 15 for 106 yards, but will likely be an insurance policy or trade chip for New York. Isaiah Crowell returned to action and should be the Jets’ lead back once the season begins. Terrelle Pryor caught a touchdown pass but will likely be an inconsistent option behind Robby Anderson in what is not expected to be a prolific passing offense.
Denver 29, Washington 17
The starters for Denver played really well in this game. Case Keenum had 148 passing yards, Royce Freeman had a 24- yard touchdown run, and Emmanuel Sanders had four catches for 61 yards and added a touchdown run of his own. Keenum is an afterthought in drafts but cracked the top-15 last year and is a solid pick in two-QB leagues. Freeman and Sanders are being drafted as Flex plays but I believe they will emerge as weekly starters. They should provide nice value in an improved Broncos’ offense.
Adrian Peterson made his Washington debut and was quite impressive. The 33-year-old finished with 56 yards on just 11 carries. At one stretch he got the call on seven consecutive plays. The performance may be enough for him to win Washington’s starting running back gig. Out of work just two weeks ago, Peterson’s ADP (currently in the 14th round) is expected to improve as the season approaches. Kapri Bibbs had 61 yards on just four touches but is not likely to make much of an impact with Peterson in the fold.
Carolina 25, New England 14
Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill were the only Patriots’ backs who had carries on Friday as they fight for roster spots. Hill played ahead of Gillislee but left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. The severity of the injury may make the final determination but neither is likely to make much of a Fantasy impact this season.
Cam Newton had 142 passing yards but also a scary moment when he took a hard hit on a scramble and had to be evaluated for a concussion. He escaped without one but did suffer a black eye as a result of the hit. Christian McCaffrey touched the ball 10 times on Carolina’s opening drive as he continues to be featured as a high-volume running back in Norv Turner’s offense. He out-touched C.J. Anderson 14-3 and may be a Top-10 Fantasy running back this season.
Minnesota 21, Seattle 20
Chris Carson had 26 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also added two catches for 20 yards as he stakes his claim to the Seahawks’ starting running back job. With Rashaad Penny still nursing a broken finger and allegedly eating his feelings in recent weeks, Carson is on the fast track to being a Fantasy bargain. He is still being drafted in the 12th round.
Kirk Cousins had 182 passing yards in one half of action, while Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each caught four passes. Latavius Murray had 10 carries and seven targets after being talked up by the coaching staff in recent weeks. Dalvin Cook finally returned to action following last season’s torn ACL but played just one series. Murray will not have much stand-alone value on a weekly basis but his presence is a real threat to those drafting Cook at the end of the first round.
Detroit 33, Tampa Bay 30
Detroit ran the ball well in this game. The trio of LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, and Kerryon Johnson combined for 100 yards on 22 carries. Blount saw most of the first-team reps after being relegated to reserve duty last week. Johnson and Blount are worthy of mid-round picks in drafts, but this will likely be a backfield to avoid early on until we get some clarity once the regular season begins.
Peyton Barber carried the ball five times on Tampa’s opening drive, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. Meanwhile, Ronald Jones had seven yards on six rushes. As I discussed in my latest player profile, Barber has run circles around Jones this preseason. He is the clear starter and an absolute steal at his current ADP. DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin each caught three balls, with Godwin reeling in a ten-yard score. Both are going very late in drafts but have week-to-week upside, particularly once Jameis Winston finishes serving his suspension.
Oakland 13, Green Bay 6
Most of the starters sat out and the Packers struggled to establish a rhythm offensively. Green Bay was held out of the end zone and totaled just 228 yards. Ty Montgomery left with a foot injury but is not expected to miss significant time. Montgomery figures to start the year as Green Bay’s passing-down back. J’Mon Moore caught four of eight targets for 62 yards but will not be a weekly contributor.
Derek Carr played just one series and completed a 49-yard pass to Amari Cooper on the first play from scrimmage. Carr is said to have already mastered Oakland’s new offense but is a tough sell in Fantasy. He is being drafted as the overall QB18 which sounds about right. Cooper was a bust last season but most drafters seem willing to forgive, as he is still being drafted as a high-end WR2. Chris Warren led the Raiders with 54 rushing yards and a touchdown. He has had a solid preseason but is not expected to make their Opening Day roster.
Chicago 27, Kansas City 20
Most of Kansas City’s starters played into the third quarter, and once again the Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill connection was the highlight. The duo hooked up eight times for 88 yards. Many believe that the arrival of Sammy Watkins may eat into Hill’s production but that has not borne itself out during the preseason. Hill is not likely to repeat his overall WR4 2017 campaign but should still be a WR2 in most formats.
Chicago rested their starters but still hung 27 points and over 400 yards of offense on the Chiefs. Chase Daniel threw for two scores and added 47 rushing yards. He has no Fantasy value of course, but if Mitchell Trubisky can duplicate this type of effort, he will be a huge bargain. He is currently going outside the Top-20. Javon Wims had 114 yards including a touchdown. The seventh-round rookie has now had two impressive preseason performances as he tries to make the final roster.
Los Angeles Rams 21, Houston 20
Deshaun Watson threw for just 15 yards and an interception but is on track to start Week 1. Watson has an elite ceiling but is a riskier pick than his ADP would suggest as he comes back from a torn ACL. Alfred Blue and Braxton Miller had first-half touchdowns but are afterthoughts for Fantasy purposes.
The Rams did not play their starters so there are not many takeaways to glean from this game. But John Kelly did rush for 64 yards and two touchdowns. The sixth-round rookie runner has now totaled 197 yards and three scores during the preseason. In leagues where he is undrafted, Kelly would be a top waiver-wire add if Todd Gurley were to miss any time.
Pittsburgh 16, Tennessee 6
Tennessee’s first-team offense struggled mightily in this game. Marcus Mariota was just 5 of 8 for 43 yards with an interception. He also missed Corey Davis on what should have been an easy pitch and catch for a long gain. Davis was held without a catch but Fantasy owners have high expectations for the second-year wideout. Davis is still going in the sixth or seventh round of most drafts.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 11 of 18 attempts for 114 yards and a score. Big Ben is being drafted as a reserve in standard weeks but I think he will outperform his ADP and has huge weekly potential, particularly in home games. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels each had at least 70 yards from scrimmage as they continue to get a bulk of the backfield touches this preseason. Juju Smith-Schuster caught six of eight targets but I’m still a little leery of drafting him in the fourth round.
Indianapolis 23, San Francisco 17
San Francisco came out on the short end in this contest, but their offensive starters had solid efforts. Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 135 yards, and Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon combined for over 100 receiving yards. Goodwin established a good rapport with Garoppolo down the stretch last season while Garçon was sidelined, but I still believe Garçon is the better weekly value. Both are being selected in the 30-40 range at wide receiver. Alfred Morris had 84 yards on 17 rushes as he continues to fill in while Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, and Joe Williams are nursing injuries suffered earlier in the preseason.
Andrew Luck continues his path to recovery after missing all of the 2017 season following shoulder surgery. Luck hit on 8-of-10 passes for 90 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Eric Ebron. Ebron is not being drafted as a starting tight end but is likely to have some big weeks on a Colts team that does not have a ton of reliable receiving options. Jordan Wilkins only had 28 yards on 14 rushing attempts but was still better than Christine Michael and Nyheim Hines. Michael had just nine rushing yards and Hines touched the ball six times and had less total yards than I did.
Baltimore 27, Miami 10
The big story in this one was that Lamar Jackson finally had the breakout game so many have been waiting for. The dual-threat rookie led three second-half touchdown drives and threw for 98 yards on just 10 attempts. He also ran for 39 yards and a score. It’s the kind of performance that makes Jackson a popular late-round target in best ball formats. Rookie De’Lance Turner had a 65-yard touchdown run but is still a longshot to find a home in Baltimore. Tim White had three catches for 70 yards but it likely best suited for a role as a return man.
Ryan Tannehill had a solid effort in this game. Tannehill was 11 of 16 for 115 yards and a touchdown pass. On the other end of that touchdown was Danny Amendola. Amendola is a good late pick in PPR drafts. He is a wily veteran who, along with Albert Wilson, will pick up most of the targets available following the trade of Jarvis Landry to Cleveland. Kenyan Drake had just five touches, but two of them went for big gains. I continue to believe his upside will separate him from Frank Gore once the season begins.
Jacksonville 17, Atlanta 6
Matt Ryan struggled on Saturday, averaging just 4.8 yards on his twelve attempts. Tevin Coleman had 38 yards on seven totes. Both are being drafted just outside starter consideration in most drafts. I don’t think either will be starter worthy in most weeks. Ryan is probably best served as a streamer, while much of Coleman’s value is tied to the availability of Devonta Freeman.
Unfortunately, the murky Jacksonville receiver situation became a little more clear, but for all the wrong reasons. Marqise Lee, who finished second on the Jaguars in back-to-back seasons, suffered a potentially serious knee injury. If Lee does indeed miss significant time, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are most likely to benefit, but I wouldn’t rush to push either too far up draft boards. I believe it is likely that Jacksonville relies more on their running backs in the passing game. The trio of Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, and Corey Grant caught 11 passes on Saturday night. An increased receiving role would give Fournette a very reliable weekly floor, making him a solid first-round Fantasy pick.
New Orleans 36, Los Angeles Chargers 7
Despite the lopsided score, no single player had a breakout performance as the Saints rotated plenty of players in and out. Alvin Kamara had a short touchdown run, which is encouraging because he will be the undisputed featured back early in the season. Third-string quarterback Taysom Hill led the Saints in rushing for the third straight preseason game but still sits behind Tom Savage on the depth chart. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith had another nice game, hauling in all four of his targets including a touchdown. The third-rounder out of UCF has good measurables and has a chance to carve out a role in what is always a high-octane offense in New Orleans.
The Chargers threw for 94 yards in this game, so let’s just talk about the running game, shall we? Austin Ekeler led the way with 50 yards on six rushes and chipped in three receptions as well. He is the clear-cut backup to Melvin Gordon and a nice pass-catcher out of the backfield. Detrez Newsome added 34 rushing yards and a score but is on the outside looking in as Los Angeles evaluates its roster before cuts.
Cincinnati 26, Buffalo 13
Andy Dalton was lights out in this one, finishing the night 11-of-16 for 180 yards and two touchdown passes. The Red Rifle is going virtually undrafted but has had fantasy success in the past and is likely to outproduce his ADP. You can certainly do worse in two-QB leagues. Tra Carson and Brian Hill each had four carries for 24 yards, but neither is likely to make the team. John Ross caught a 57-yard touchdown on the Bengals’ first play from scrimmage. Ross has been inconsistent this preseason but will have plenty of opportunities to make plays alongside A.J. Green. I like him a lot as a late pick in best ball leagues.
Josh Allen had a start to forget. The rookie accounted for just 37 yards of total offense while losing 39 on five first-half sacks. He left the game to be evaluated for a concussion following another near-sack. It remains to be seen who will get the call come Week 1, but it’s a dicey situation regardless of who gets the nod. Marcus Murphy led the way with 58 rushing yards but will struggle to get carries behind LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. He may ultimately make his bones in the return game. Three of the four leading receivers in this contest for Buffalo were tight ends. It’s a reminder that veteran Charles Clay, currently going 33rd among tight ends, is likely to finish much higher than that, particularly in an offense possibly led by a rookie signal caller.
Arizona 27, Dallas 3
Arizona scored first-quarter touchdowns on defense and special teams, and Josh Rosen sat this one out after injuring his thumb in practice, so Arizona went to the ground game on Sunday night. T.J. Logan led the way with 86 yards and a score, while Chase Edmonds tacked on 55 yards on 11 carries. Edmonds is David Johnson’s primary backup and could be in for a huge workload if Johnson misses time at some point. No receiver had more than two catches or 17 yards, so there were no real takeaways in that department.
Dallas had three first-quarter turnovers, including two by soon-to-be-ex return man Lance Lenoir. Bo Scarbrough and Rod Smith each had seven carries, but neither did much with them as Arizona’s defense dominated throughout. Rico Gathers led the Cowboys with five catches, but they went for just 30 total yards. Gathers is buried on the depth chart and a non-factor in fantasy.
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