Fantasy Football: What We Learned in Week 3 of the Preseason
The third week of the preseason is known as the “dress rehearsal” before the season, though some NFL coaches apparently hate the use of that phrase. We call it that because the starters are generally out there at least half the game, warming up for the start of the regular season. This week was a dark one, as there were some big names who went down with injuries, leaving their mark on fantasy football drafts. Today, we’ll talk about everything that happened and what it means for your fantasy team.
This should come as no surprise to those who’ve watched him before, but Jay Cutler is willing to sling it around the field, despite some saying Adam Gase wants him to be a “game-manager.” He’s a QB2 in fantasy with some upside considering who he’s throwing to. Carson Wentz took a step forward in Week 3, hooking up with both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith for touchdowns. Cam Newton returned to game action, but threw just two passes. One of them was a two-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, who remains his favorite red zone target. Despite the Jaguars claiming it a quarterback competition, Blake Bortles was always going to be the starter. This was proved when he didn’t play what you would call great football in his audition, throwing an interception into tight coverage against the Panthers, but was named the starter for Week 1 the next day. Opposite of him was Tom Brady, who looked as sharp as ever, completing 12 of 15 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jets quarterback situation potentially got worse as Bryce Petty may have suffered a season-ending knee injury. It’s really too bad, as he looked the best of the bunch in Week 3, completing 15 of 18 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. This is going to be Josh McCown‘s job to start the year, but they’ll eventually see what they have in Christian Hackenberg, who threw two pick-sixes against the Giants this week. It’s a bad time to be a Jets fan. The Browns were in this spot not long ago and still might be if DeShone Kizer continues to look how he did in Week 3 of the preseason, completing just six of 18 passes for 93 yards and one interception. Still, he’s been named the Week 1 starter of the Browns. Things just keep getting worse for Tyrod Taylor who was pulled from the Week 3 game due to a concussion. He has two weeks to get back on the field for the Week 1 matchup with the Jets. The bad performances just kept going for Joshua Dobbs, who may have lost the backup competition to Landry Jones. Over the preseason, Dobbs has completed just 22 of 41 passes (53.7 percent) for 194 yards (4.7 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and three interceptions. If this was any indication of life for the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger, they need to draft a quarterback next year, and relatively high.
Jared Goff regressed from his Week 2 performance and looked awful against the Chargers. He was worse than his stat line of 5/8 for 56 yards and an interception. His lone target to Sammy Watkins sailed a good five yards over his head and was intercepted. Derek Carr was the opposite and looked fantastic in his tune-up, completing 13 of 17 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Dak Prescott continued his dominant preseason and finished it completing 18 of 22 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The combination of Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage was brutal on Saturday, combining for 21 of 37 passing with 195 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. They led zero scoring drives against the Saints defense, despite them taking 59 of 70 total snaps. Similarly, the duo of Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith struggled against the Seahawks, combining for 15 of 32 passing for 114 yards. The Bears Mike Glennon stepped up and played his best game of the preseason by far, making it easier for John Fox to name him the Week 1 starter.
It was good to see Jay Ajayi get going this week, as the offensive line has been shaky at best throughout the first few games. His line of nine carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns was good to see for a guy who’s going at the top of the second round. Cameron Artis-Payne isn’t likely to have a fantasy impact without injury, but he needs to be mentioned. His preseason has been dominant, totaling 129 yards on 20 carries for three touchdowns. It was good to see Mike Gillislee get into the lineup in general, but even better to see him log eight carries for 38 yards, including a touchdown. He’s the best bet for the Patriots goal-line duties, and if he takes the LeGarrette Blount role from last year, he’s going to win fantasy leagues. Ameer Abdullah has been on the field a lot for the Lions and it continued in Week 3, as he totaled 60 yards on 13 carries and another 39 yards on three receptions. He’s a great upside pick in the fifth round. The Jets running back duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell were on the field in Week 3, and while Forte totaled a respectable 44 yards on 12 touches, Powell destroyed the receiving game with 110 yards and a touchdown on four catches. I still think they both add value each week, but Powell being used so much in the passing game is where the real value is. He’s an RB2 in PPR leagues.
Paul Perkins looked better totaling 33 yards on six carries against the Jets, which should restore faith in the undervalued running back. It’s not often you get a starting running back in the seventh round, but that’s where Perkins is going. While Marshawn Lynch didn’t see much work, it appears his backup is clearly DeAndre Washington, who totaled five carries for 27 yards on the ground, while Jalen Richard had just one carry for one yard. Ty Montgomery made his way back onto the field and looked good totaling 31 yards on his three carries, including a two-yard touchdown. It seems that Jamaal Williams is slated for backup duties, but the important note from this game was that he caught three passes for 46 yards. Many have questioned his receiving ability, so it’s good to see the Packers use him there. Should something happen to Montgomery, Williams would get the first crack at the starting job. It was also nice to see Jamaal Charles get back on the field. He looked solid carrying the ball four times for 27 yards and catching two passes for 15 yards. He earned himself a spot on the roster. DeAngelo Henderson fumbled twice and lost the tempo he’d created through the first two weeks.
The biggest news of the weekend was the Chiefs losing Spencer Ware for the season, giving Kareem Hunt the starting job. In an Andy Reid system, you want his starter. Hunt is now a third-round pick in every format, and even debatable in the late second round. The Seahawks backfield was a question before Chris Carson became a thing, and it’s even more of one now. They signed Eddie Lacy, but Thomas Rawls was starting over him. Then Carson was playing with the first team offense even more than Lacy. Pete Carroll isn’t afraid to play the no-name over the free agent, so you should pay attention when you see Carson’s 92 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, including another 64 yards on four receptions. DeMarco Murray finally returned to game action where he totaled just 16 yards on six carries. It wasn’t just him, though, as the Titans entire offense looked sluggish against the Bears. Joe Mixon continued to play behind Jeremy Hill, who actually hurt his ankle in this game. That, of course, was after he scored on his goal-line plunge. Considering we have two weeks before the season opener, Hill should be fine. Rob Kelley appears to be the Redskins lead back after getting 10 carries and one reception in the dress rehearsal while rookie Samaje Perine carried the ball just five times. It’s going to take some time for him to pass Kelley on the depth chart, but I still believe it happens. 49ers running back Matt Breida has apparently passed Joe Williams on the depth chart, just showing the cushion that Carlos Hyde has on the starting job.
In what was an ominous start to the third week of the preseason, Julian Edelman tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2017 season. Chris Hogan stepped up and posted four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. While the Edelman injury gives a bump to Hogan, it also gives a bump to Brandin Cooks, who is now a top-10 wide receiver in my rankings. The other injury that took the fantasy world by storm was the one to Cameron Meredith, who suffered a severe knee injury and is done for the season. Kendall Wright and Kevin White are going to be targeted, a lot. As mentioned in the quarterback section, DeVante Parker continues to be a favorite of the gunslinger Jay Cutler. He went up and over Ronald Darby to haul in what turned out to be a 72-yard reception. Torrey Smith did what he does best, and that is beat cornerbacks deep, hauling in his lone target for a 50-yard touchdown. Alshon Jeffery also hit pay-dirt, hauling in two balls for 35 yards and a score. Kelvin Benjamin has posted the better numbers this preseason, but Devin Funchess has been on the field for every one of the first-team snaps. He costs nothing and could turn out to be what most expected him to be in 2016, a WR4 on fantasy teams.
For the second straight week, Marvin Jones found the endzone. He’s caught eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games while Kenny Golladay has been quiet. Jones is a very intriguing WR4 in fantasy this year. The hype for rookie Zay Jones died a little bit in Week 3, as he turned eight targets into just three catches for 28 yards. Meanwhile, in the biggest news of the weekend for me, John Brown got back onto the field and scored two touchdowns on his only two targets. If he can stay healthy, he’s a game-breaker. Most have touted Kenny Britt as the Browns wide receiver to own, but don’t write off Corey Coleman who led the team with four catches for 66 yards, while Britt totaled just one catch for 13 yards. Chargers free agent acquisition from 2016 Travis Benjamin remained hot and now has 134 yards and two touchdowns this preseason. He’s unlikely to be a fantasy asset, but it’s another mouth to feed in a crowded receiving corps.
Amari Cooper missed a lot of practice time a few weeks ago, but he’s not showing any signs of something wrong, destroying the Cowboys secondary for 78 yards and a touchdown. Demaryius Thomas left the game with a groin injury, but they removed him “as a precaution.” It’s definitely something to monitor as the season approaches, but he does have a full two weeks to ensure he’s okay. It’s been too quiet of a preseason for Tyreek Hill, who is supposed to be leaned on as the No. 1. Through the three weeks, he’s totaled just three catches for 52 yards. Another player who has been quiet on the field as a projected No. 1 wide receiver is Terrelle Pryor, who has just two catches for 28 yards this preseason. Both he and Hill lead all wide receivers with three drops during the preseason.
At the position there isn’t much to learn, as rookies hardly have any impact, there’s been one situation to monitor. The Buccaneers have told us that Cameron Brate is the starter and that O.J. Howard would be eased in. In the dress rehearsal, Howard played 25 first half snaps while Brate played 23. It’s unlikely that either of them have enough opportunities to be a consistent fantasy option without an injury to the other. Julius Thomas got on the field with Jay Cutler and they designed a screen play to get him in the endzone. With all the options they have at wide receiver, it’s likely that Thomas will be a mismatch for defenses all season. Lastly, Jason Witten showed that he can still get it done, destroying the Raiders secondary for 74 yards and a touchdown. He may be a boring fantasy pick, but he’s also one of the only tight ends where you know what you’re getting when you put him in your lineup. He’s undervalued.