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10 Things We Learned From Preseason Wk 2

By Kirk Hollis | 8/21/23

The second week of the 2023 preseason has mostly come and gone (BAL @ WAS tonight) and there continue to be fantasy relevant nuggets of information coming out of these games. Some players are seeing their first NFL game action ever and some veterans are working their way back from serious, season-altering injuries in 2022. Let’s see what Week 2 of the preseason gave us to chew on…

Javonte Williams

1. All Systems Go for Javonte

The Broncos began their first drive by giving four consecutive touches to Javonte Williams. Yes, the same Javonte Williams who many expected to spend the preseason on the PUP list and even miss regular season games following a complex knee injury in early October. The fact that Williams looks ready to go is helping his fantasy value rise as the second weekend in September approaches. While itís true that Samaje Perine is going to get his share of touches in Sean Paytonís offense, Williams projects as the better of the two backs and may be a bargain at his current ADP of RB27. Add in the fact that Russell Wilson hasnít looked sharp this preseason, and itís easy to see the Broncos leaning on the running game to begin the year. Paytonís teams have been ground happy in the past with guys like Deuce McAllister, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram all carving out valuable fantasy roles. Even with Perine in the fold, itís time to start looking for Javonte early in Round 5 in redrafts as a low-end RB2.

2. Rashee Rice Pushing for Playing Time

Kadarius Toney is hurt (again). Skyy Moore wasnít much more than a solid return man on special teams last season. And, Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster donít play for Kansas City anymore. All of that is to say that the WR roles for the Chiefs are up in the air. Rookie Rashee Rice had another solid pre-season outing with 8 catches for 96 yards on 9 targets against the Cardinals. Thatís 11 catches now in two games for 126 yards. With teams always having to account for Travis Kelce, Kansas City wide receivers are always going to see coverage that few teams rarely see. While there may not be room for a top 10-15 WR in KCís offense, there is plenty of room for someone to emerge as a weekly fantasy starter. After all, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce coexisted for years in the same universe. Now, no one is saying Rashee Rice is the next Hill. But, if you arenít picking him up in the later rounds of your redraft leagues, you could be missing out on one of this yearís top offensive rookies. Stay tuned.

3. Seattleís New Weapsons

Most insiders believed that Seattle would use the draft this year to improve its defense given their offense was one of 2022ís biggest surprises. Guess again. Seattle instead chose to draft the top overall wide receiver on the board in the form of Jaxon Smith-Njigba and then followed that up with the selection of Zach Charbonnet in Round 2. On Saturday, both Smith-Njigba and Charbonnet saw game action and did little curb enthusiasm for them individually and for Seattleís offense as a whole. Smith-Njigba caught all 3 of his targets for 58 yards including a 48-yard reception in which he turned the Dallas secondary around with his route running skills and speed. As for Charbonnet, he touched the ball just 4 times, but turned one of those touches into a 29-yard gain. Itís hard to know how much either will be utilized in September, but I do look for both to see increased touches as the season goes on.

4. Purdy Good for a Preseason Debut

Much like Javonte Williams, many people believed that Brock Purdy had little chance of beginning the 2023 NFL year in the starting lineup come Week 1. Not only does he have a chance to do so, but it is almost a lock at this point in time. Purdy began San Franciscoís game vs. Denver by completing 4 darts in 5 attempts for 65 yards including two strikes to Deebo Samuel. Purdyís stock has been rising for a couple of weeks and is considered to be a solid QB2 in the same vein as a Derek Carr or Matthew Stafford. The fact that Purdy has better weapons at his disposal only underscores his upside. Yes, San Francisco is so good defensively that game script may not require Purdy to extend beyond the parameters of solid game management and conservative attack strategy. But itís become clear that heís the guy the 49ers believe has the best chance to get them back to the Super Bowl.

5. Soft Run Defenses from 2022 Still Look Soft

I am well aware that first team defenses donít play entire preseason games. In fact, they often donít even play much beyond the first quarter. But, thereís still something to be said for getting shredded by another team on the ground, preseason or otherwise. This week, three NFL defenses gave up nearly 650 yards on the ground combined. Those teams were the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions. The Lions and Vikings gave up the most fantasy points of any NFL defenses in 2022 and Houston was the worst defense, fantasy-wise vs. the running game for the season. And, aside from the Texans getting a new, defensive-minded coach, donít look for any of the three defenses to reverse their trend anytime soon with so much of their team money tied up in the offensive side of the ball. That bodes well for RBs like Aaron Jones and Khalil Herbert who will face the NFC North foes four times this year. As you draft take note of players facing the Vikings, Lions, and Texans as improvement on the defensive side of the ball for these teams isnít in the cards.

6. Are We Targeting the Wrong Green Bay WR?

Hear me out. Christian Watson had an outstanding rookie season and is one of the more explosive young receivers in the game today based on what we observed the second half of last season. But Jordan Love appears to have chemistry going with Romeo Doubs that is hard to ignore. This weekend saw the two hook up for 2 catches and 52 yards in the first quarter alone. That was a follow up to last week in which Love found Doubs for a first quarter touchdown. Love is not likely to throw the ďhome runĒ ball the way Aaron Rodgers did, opting instead for shorter, safer routes. That could lead to Doubs being a more consistent producer, fantasy-wise, than Watson particularly in PPR situations. Looking at numbers from the previous year and assuming theyíll be duplicated is often times a fallacy in fantasy football. I still like Watson and I have him on a couple of fantasy teams already, but Iím warming up to the idea that Doubs is being undervalued. Perhaps massively undervalued. Grab him late in redrafts if you can.

7. Best Laid Plans in Pittsburgh May Need Revision

The prognosis for the Steelers offensive this season was a lot of ball control via the run and a conservative passing game that limits turnovers. After all, Pittsburgh is still breaking in Kenny Pickett and have a workhorse RB in Najee Harris to keep the chains moving. What the Steelers may be starting to figure out is that they have something every team needs - speed. We took some time last week to point out the exploits of WR Calvin Austin and this week, we couldnít help but notice Jaylen Warrenís 62-yard scamper to the end zone on his only touch of the game. Warren looked superior to Harris last season but was used sparingly because of his body frame and perceived lack of durability. A word now, from Captain Obvious. Itís going to be hard to keep Warren (and Austin for that matter) off the field. They are the syrup on a fairly vanilla scoop of ice cream and Pittsburgh had better be finding ways to get both the ball. As for drafting, Austin remains a late round flier, but Warren could be a borderline RB1 if Harris were to get hurt. If you wait too late to draft him, heíll be long gone as his stock continues to rise.

8. Are We Excited About the Giants Passing Offense?

Since Odell Beckham Jr. left, there hasnít been a lot to get excited about in the Giants wide receiver room. Sterling Shepard has seemingly been in New York for a decade now and is mostly a tease as a weekly starter. Daniel Jones only became fantasy relevant last year based on his rushing prowess as no receiver cracked 750 yards. But, this offseason, the Giants made two moves that arenít getting enough attention in fantasy circles. One was the acquisition of TE Darren Waller and the other was drafting WR Jalin Hyatt. In this weekendís game vs. the Panthers, both were targeted 9 times combined and Hyatt scored a TD on a throw from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Daniel Jonesí rushing numbers from late last season likely arenít sustainable in 2023, but they may not have to be given the upgrades in the receiving room. The only thing curbing enthusiasm is they have to face the Cowboys, Eagles, and Commandersí defenses six times this year.

9. Drumbeat Growing Louder for Kincaid

Stock is rising for Dalton Kincaid and rightfully so. Kincaid took in 3 passes for 45 yards on Saturday and while two of them were courtesy of backup QB Matt Barkley, Kincaidís ability to operate in space was on full display. For several years, the Bills have tried to make slot receiver one of the primary targets, but in 2023, I donít think itís going to be a priority. Instead, Kincaid is poised to become that third branch of the tree, if not the second if Gabriel Davis doesnít take a step forward. Kincaid is currently being drafted primarily as an upside TE2, but I think he may be headed for TE1 numbers by the middle of October. If you believe in waiting a bit on the selection of your first TE, Kincaid would be a great target and definitely is ideal as a high-end TE2. Buffalo has been looking for someone to work the middle of the field. In the form of Kincaid, it appears that help has finally arrived.

10. A Couple of Vintage Preseason Performances for the RoadÖ

And, finally, a couple of guys to keep in the back of your mind as the season begins. The two biggest performances of this past weekend, came courtesy of WR Austin Watkins for Cleveland (7-139-1) and Ronnie Bell for San Francisco (7-114). Watkins is a third-year player while Bell is a rookie out of Michigan. The path to targets during the regular season will be hard to locate for either player, but both showed something in Week 2 of the preseason and their continued success or lack thereof bears watching.

That’s a wrap on Week 2 of the preseason. One more glance next week and we’ll be ready for the real thing.

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