Thoughts on Preseason Week 3
Watching the NFL preseason is like watching NASCAR. It’s really boring for 98% of the time unless you have arcane and intricate knowledge of the sport, an then there’s a car crash and you’re entertained for 15 seconds. No one blames you for giving the preseason a pass, especially now that I’m here to watch it for you! I have watched every preseason game this week, and have distilled the important bits that you need to know for fantasy football redraft leagues. This week in particular is important, as the third week of preseason is usually considered to be a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the starters, and some teams are starting to tip their hands. With that in mind, here’s what I saw.
Dolphins vs. Eagles
- The Jay Cutler/Devante Parker connection may be a thing this year. Cutler hit Parker for a 72 yard gain early in the game. Parker is starting to look like a legitimate guy to target in drafts at his current ADP.
- Jay Ajayi turned into a human bottle of Pepto Bismol, scoring 2 touchdowns, and gaining 53 yards on 9 carries. A week ago he was giving me draft-anxiety indigestion, now my tummy feels all better.
- Carson Wentz looked crisp, going 6/10 for 129 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. With a sneaky-good defense, a strong line, and an underrated receiving corps, Wentz could be a decent sleeper pick. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
- Alshon Jeffrey pulled up lame on his first route of the night. It sounds like he’s going to be out for the rest of the season with a non-contact hamstring injury.
- Ha, caught you flinching! Jeffrey looked unstoppable on his two catches: a 20 yard slant and a 15 yard TD. If – if! – he can find find the courage to play all 16 games, Jeffrey’s going to be in the WR1 discussion this year.
- Torrey Smith exploited busted coverage for a 50 yard TD on his first catch as an Eagle. He’s a talented guy in a good situation, and is going extremely late in drafts. Smith is a guy to keep an eye on should you find yourself in the market for a late round WR with upside.
- Nelson Agholor wasn’t even targeted. Because of course he wasn’t. Would you target him, with those manos de piedra dangling there at the end of his arms?
- Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount split the first team carries, with four each. Of the two backs, you should be targeting Smallwood. He ran far better, and he can be had at a fraction of Blount’s cost.
Panthers vs. Jaguars
- The Jaguars sat the two players I wanted to see most: Marquise Lee and Leonard Fournette. Instead, we got to watch a battle between Chad Henne and Blake Bortles. The winner was promised a chance to sit on the bench and not have rotten fruit thrown at them for 16 games. Henne won, meaning Bortles will start the season opener.
- Cam Newton only threw two passes, but he did play. He shouldn’t miss any time this year.
- Christian McCaffrey continued to impress, but be wary of him at his lofty ADP. He split time with Jonathan Stewart, who is far from washed up.
- Stewart was impressive, going 4 for 42 in the first drive. He’s exceptional value late in the draft.
Patriots vs. Lions
- The big news out of this game was of course Julian Edelman, who had a season ending injury in this game. The big question now for fantasy players is ‘who will benefit most from this’? The short answer is: literally anyone on the offense might. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, J. Foster—all of these guys would be comfortable taking passes in the slot. Good luck.
- But Wait! We all know it’s going to be Chris Hogan, right? Well… Hogan did go bananas in this game, scoring two touchdowns (including a beautiful bomb in double coverage) on 4 passes for 70 yards. The problem is that Bill Belichick is the coach in Foxborough, and he rarely connects the dots so clearly for fantasy football managers. Caution is advised as Hogan’s ADP rises.
- Mike Gillislee finally got his first touch as a Patriot. More importantly, he got his first goal line carry (TD) followed by a two-point conversion carry (converted). He’s risky, but I’m buying in the fifth round if he’s there.
- Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal. Before 2016, Gostkowski was considered to be as close to a ‘sure thing’ as possible at the kicker position. His struggles last year paired with his rocky preseason mean that the days of reaching to draft him before the last round of the draft are well and truly over.
- For their part, the Lions looked lost, like a kid whose parents accidentally left them at a gas station.
- Still, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones had respectable performances.
- Kenny Golladay did not, catching one pass for 2 yards and bobbling a pass in the end zone which was intercepted. Time to pump the brakes, fantasy drafters.
- Ameer Abdullah balled out, getting 60 yards on 13 carries and another 39 yards through the air. The concern here is his low touchdown upside. This game may portend things to come, as Abdullah busted a long run to get this team in scoring position, but the team didn’t trust him to score, targeting Marvin Jones
Chiefs vs. Seahawks
- Spencer Ware was dominating until he injured his knee grinding for six or seven yards after contact on a short dump-off. He’s out for the year.
- Kareem Hunt filled in well in Ware’s absence. He now finds himself in a very favorable fantasy position. Buy, buy, buy!
- Tyreek Hill dropped several catchable balls. This is worrying for a guy on a low volume passing offense who is being drafted as a high end WR2.
- Thomas Rawls did not play, so this game did not provide a lot of clarity about the RB situation in Seattle. Eddie Lacy looked solid on his four carries.
- I know I’m going to hear about it if I don’t mention third stringer Chris Carson, who went 8 for 46 with another 2 for 44 (!) through the air. Kid looked good, but I’m not drafting him, even late. There’s just too many mouths to feed above him.
- Russell Wilson showed what I needed to see from him. He was mobile and elusive, and pinpoint accurate. He’s an incredible value in the middle rounds.
Jets vs. Giants
- The Jets looked so bad. So very bad. Words fail me.
- Bilal Powell did put up a gawdy 4 for 110 yard and a score receiving line against the Giants third string defense, so those of you who draft him can feel good about that I guess. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be drafting any Jets.
- Paul Perkins looked okay on limited carries, but was out for a series when Orleans Darkwa got the goal line TD carry.
- Rookie tight end Evan Engram flashed some skill. That’s nice. You won’t be owning him though, because you know not to draft rookie tight ends.
Bills vs. Ravens
- Tyrod Taylor went out very early with a concussion. This meant neither team was fielding their starting quarterback. I have to believe that made this game mostly useless for analysis purposes.
- Charles Clay looked ok. I could think of worse late round TE fliers.
- Star kicker Justin Tucker game himself a concussion doing his best Murderleg impression. He muffed the tackle.
Cardinals vs. Falcons
- John Brown had 2 catches for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not too shabby. Seriously though, this kid is good, and concerns about his health have pushed his ADP down below rookie Corey Davis and cowardly lion Marvin Jones. Be warned though. If you draft Brown, know that he comes with a curse. All season long, his owners will be perpetually trying to figure out if it was #12 John Brown or #13 Jaron Brown who just caught that TD pass (hint: if you have to ask, it’s Jaron).
- The Cardinals Defense looks legit. They could be a great year-long target for you non-streamers.
- Austin Hooper wasn’t targeted, and finishes the preseason with three catches for 36 yards. Worse, he was out-snapped by that Toillolo fellow 11 to 12. Hooper is one of the most popular deep round sleepers but it’s probably time to pump the brakes.
Browns vs. Buccaneers
- So this was one of those games where the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. Deshone Kizer’s 6 completions on 18 passes with no TDs and an interception seems bad. But Kizer looked capable in this game, shooting bullets and remaining composed. I’m not the only one who thinks so, apparently. He was named the starter after this game.
- The real story here is Kizer’s connection with sophomore Corey Coleman. The two were very much in sync, I’m excited. Coleman’s 4 catches for 66 yards is impressive enough on its own, but he also had a 45ish yard catch called back on a penalty. Coleman is the WR to own in Cleveland, and he’s dirt cheap. You know what to do, amigos.
- Like the putrid yang to Coleman’s yin, Kenny Britt had one catch for 13 yards and an ugly drop that cost the Browns a first down.
- The Cleveland rushing game looks solid. Isaiah Crowell had a respectable 11 carries for 40 yards and Duke Johnson Jr. ripped off a long run, giving him an unsustainable 3 for 43 line. Still, for a guy who is supposed to earn his keep as a pseudo-slot receiver, this is concerning.
- The Bucs held starters Mike Evans and Desean Jackson out, so there wasn’t a lot to be learned from their performance.
Colts vs. Steelers
- It’s hard to get an accurate read with Andrew Luck still out, but Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett looked sharp in limited play.
- Frank Gore looked as young as ever, rumbling his way to 23 yards and a TD on five attempts.
- Fashionable sleeper pick Marlon Mack had a terrible game, like 7 for 18 bad. It’s clear he won’t be taking the reins from Gore any time soon.
- The Steelers didn’t keep their first team offense in for long. Antonio Brown and Martavais Bryant are #goodatfootball, but we already know that. The team is really missing Le’Veon Bell.
Texans vs. Saints
- The Saints defense shut out the Texans. The Saints defense. Tom Savage completed just 1 of 7 first down attempts. It was ugly.
- Adrian Peterson played for the first time this preseason. He did not look like he was playing at NFL speed, gaining just 15 yards on 6 (!) carries. He lost a yard on his only reception. Maybe he was phoning it in — I don’t know – but he looks washed.
- Mark Ingram didn’t look much better, gaining only 20 yards from scrimmage on four rushes and two catches. Eww. I’d still draft him, but I wouldn’t feel great about it.
- Ted Ginn Jr. out-gained both of them combined on his single gadget rush. Maybe we should all just draft him and hit the bar.
- I really wanted to see rookie Alvin Kamara with Drew Brees for the first time, but he was unfortunately a healthy scratch.
Raiders vs. Cowboys
- Apparently Cordarelle Patterson plays for the Raiders now.
- Marshawn Lynch had a nice 7 yard reception where he briefly looked like the Beast Mode of old of which the age’d bards sing. Coming into the season, we’re still left wondering exactly what this backfield will look like, since Lynch had a total of 4 carries this preseason.
- DeAndre Washington out carried and out-gained Jalen Richardson, for what it’s worth.
- Michael Crabtree was pretty quiet, with a 2 for 9 line. Meanwhile Amari Cooper went to town. Week 2 was the opposite. Such is life in Oakland.
- Ezekiel Elliott played the first drive, Darren Mcfadden the second. Alfred Morris came in with the second team offense and had a big game, but I’m not sure that means much. Mcfadden is the backup to own for Zeke’s suspension.
- Jason Witten led the team in receptions and yards and looked good doing it. Old man can still play, apparently. I don’t like it, but he’s probably a better late round TE target than Austin Hooper.
Chargers vs Rams
- Remember how supposedly there was enough football fans in Los Angeles to justify moving not one, but two NFL teams there? Yeah… this game appeared to be the least attended of any preseason game I saw this week.
- The Chargers are ready for the season. All skill players looked sharp and locked in. They’re also well priced at their current ADPs across the board. If you finish your draft and you don’t own at least one of Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Phillip Rivers, Tyrell Williams, or Antonio Gates; you’ve probably done something wrong. Hunter Henry is the only Charger I wouldn’t draft at his current ADP.
- The Rams sat Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, and Todd Gurley. Sammy Watkins played, but wasn’t targeted. What a waste of time. Jared Goff played, and looked like a human pimple in the process of being popped. It would be unfair to judge him too harshly given he was playing with all backups but I’m doing it anyway.
Packers vs. Broncos
- Finally, some clarity. Ty Montgomery looked like a top-10 fantasy back: finding holes, breaking tackles, and dragging defenders for some tasty yardage-after-contact. Most encouragingly, he got the first crack at a goal line carry (which he converted, barely) after an early interception. I’ve seen enough to be wheels up.
- The twitter chatter around Jamaal Charles went kind of like this during his four carries:
- ‘Jamaal Charles is playing for a roster spot’
- ‘Jamaal Charles is down, looks like a season ending injury’
- ‘He’s back in’
- ‘Wow, that was a nice play’
- ‘Charles is likely to play 1B to C. J. Anderson’s 1A.’
- Charles did indeed look impressive in his limited carries. It’s worth noting that he didn’t come in until Anderson went out with a minor boo boo early in the game. He may be worth a late round flier, I’m not going out of my way to draft him though.
- C. J. Anderson also looked decent on his 9 carries for 31 yards and a score. I am buying him at his current ADP.
- Defensive Phenomenon Von Miller got a sack and unveiled a new celebration dance: the sexy T-rex. ‘Cool’.
Bears vs. Titans
- The Bears nominal WR1 Cameron Meredith went down with a knee injury so brutal that he may miss the 2018 season. This is a bummer in both real life, and in fantasy.
- Mike Glennon did seem to have a rapport with Kendell Wright. If Glennon starts, Wright could be a potential deep round sleeper.
- DeMarco Murray made his 2017 debut and boy, did he look like he was phoning it in, with a 6 for 16 line and a -3 yard reception. I’m not sure if he actually was phoning it in, or if he’s starting to slip. Either way, he was easily outplayed by Derrick Henry. I’m not freaking out if I’m a Murray owner, but I’m also not not freaking out.
- With Eric Decker and Corey Davis sidelined, Taywon Taylor had an incredible catch where he dragged a defender for 15+ yards. Not sure if this is fantasy relevant, but it was fun to watch.
Bengals vs. Redskins
- Jeremy Hill ran well before exiting the game with an ankle injury. The injury looks minor, and I personally welcome anything that can take his ADP lower. He’s a value target in drafts and should produce early in the season.
- Joe Mixon was inconsistent, flashing incredible shiftiness one moment, then putting the ball on the ground the next. I was already not comfortable drafting him at his current ADP, if it rises much following Hill’s pseudo-injury I’m solidly out of the market.
- Tyler Eifert missed the game with some ‘tendonitis flareup’. This is exactly the kind of thing one wants to hear about an oft injured player two weeks before the season starts. I’m fading him hard.
- The Washington passing game looked worryingly bad. I’m not the only one who thinks so, Coach Jay Gruden said after the game, “I’m a little concerned, we’ve just got to figure something to do: eat a different pregame meal or something, change up the first 15.” This is exactly the kind of end-of-preseason interview every coach hopes to be giving, ‘Why do we suck? Good question, maybe we should eat more Wheaties, I have no freaking clue.’
- At this point, I’m inclined to fade everyone, from Kirk Cousins to Terelle Pryor to Jamison Crowder.
- Jordan Reed stays where he was in my rankings, because he was already a value in the mid rounds of fantasy drafts.
- As bad as the passing game skewed, the running game in Washington was in fine form. Rob Kelley was dominant, producing 57 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown. More importantly, he looked good doing it. This guy may be one of the best values in the draft at his current ADP.
- Samaje Perine will not be taking over any time soon. He got 5 yards on 5 carries. Against the second team defense.
49ers vs. Vikings
- My head knows that the 49ers are supposed to be bad, but my heart and my eyes—they’re lying to me.
- Brian Hoyer grabbed the bull by the horns and held on for the full 8 seconds. He looked commanding, composed, and capable.
- As expected, Pierre Garcon got the lion’s share of the targets. He’s a value pick.
- Speedster Marquise Goodwin caught a long TD where he absolutely torched the Vikings secondary. He may be a deep sleeper to roll the dice on late in drafts.
- The running back situation still looks kinda murky in SF. Carlos Hyde was hot and cold, and both Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert looked capable in limited carries.
- The Vikings played like my Sam Bradford dropped the ball unpressured during the very first snap of the game. Things did not improve much. In the half that he played, Bradford absorbed 3 sacks. His passes were frequently of the ‘hospital’ variety—you now the ones where he puts his receiver in a prime position to get creamed?
- Adam Thielen showed some flash, I’ll sign off on him if you can get him late.
- Stefon Diggs did almost nothing, going only 2 for 6. HE had one pass hit him in the numbers and bounce off. As a Diggs truther going back to 2015, this game made my soul itch.
- Dalvin Cook, needed to justify his lofty ADP in this game for me to feel comfortable drafting him, and I simply didn’t see him do that. He has talent, but the situation is too murky—Latavius Murray also looked good on limited carries.
- Jerrick McKinnon was a wild man, but he was playing just to make the team, not for starter’s snaps.