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10 Things We Learned From Preseason Wk 3

By Kirk Hollis | 8/28/23

The 2023 preseason is now officially over. Along this short road, we have tried to provide you with insight gleaned from what took place on the field. In Week 3, there were a number of teams that didnít play a single player likely to be fantasy relevant this season. That said, not every NFL team took that approach and those teams gave us a glimpse into some truths that we can use as we head into our drafts.

1. Want Ridley? Youíre Going to Have to Invest with an Early Pick

Jacksonville was one of those teams that decided to play its starters, which gave us a good look at Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Tank Bigsby. It also meant one more look at what Calvin Ridley figures to be in his long-awaited return to football. Itís easy to forget just how good he was during his first three seasons in Atlanta. Guess what? He is looking that good again. Reports out of training camp and summer practices have suggested that Ridley is in fine form and it is showing up in the preseason as well. Ridley caught all three of his targets for 50 yards receiving and is clearly ready to assume the alpha role in Jacksonville. Yes, there are other mouths to feed, but this is a team with an ascending QB, an offense that produced 300 yards passing/receiving on Saturday on only 20 completions, and a coach that knows how to get stars the ball. Ridley is a star and should be drafted in the top 30 overall. If you want him this season, plan on paying with a premium pick.

Deshaun Watson

2. Deshaun is Comfortable in Cleveland

You can smell the urgency for the Browns. After selling the entire farm and all its tractors to obtain Deshaun Watson prior to last season, the Browns offense looked sluggish with him under center in 2022. As a result, the Browns are trying to prevent a slow start from Watson that mirrors his slow finish last year. That means preseason playing time, and even though Watson only completed half of his ten passes on Saturday vs the Chiefs, he did lead the Browns on two touchdown drives with a completion over 50 yards to Amari Cooper, a pass of 20 yards to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and a TD toss to David Njoku.

Along with Elijah Moore, that group figures to be Clevelandís top recipients of Watsonís passes and with an offseason full of work, I expect the entire operation to be smoother in 2023. There are some who wonít draft Watson on principle, but weíre not here to debate all of that. The Browns have a top-5 offensive line by nearly all accounts and adequate weapons all around. Itís easy to talk yourself into projecting Watson as a top 5-7 QB.

3. Bakerís The Man in Tampa: Hereís the Benefactor

Baker Mayfield has won the quarterback sweepstakes in Tampa Bay, but as heís learning a new offense, he was always going to see some action in the preseason to get his feet wet. Mayfield completed all six of his passes on Saturday, but heís still not on the fantasy radar. Thatís because those six completions only averaged 7.2 yards and represent what Mayfield is likely to be this season.

So, who benefits from him being under center? Based on what we observed vs. the Ravens, it would be Chris Godwin. Godwin caught all 4 passes thrown his way for 30 yards and a TD. His receptions only averaged 7.5 yards per catch - right in line with Mayfieldís average. So, while Godwin may lack huge yardage totals, he looks like a PPR steal heading into late draftsÖ as in 100+ receptions if he can stay healthy. Iím not high on Tampaís offense this season and Iím not high on Mayfield. But, I am looking more and more at Godwin as the player to own on an offense that will likely see itís fair share of negative game scripts. Buy low and expect good things.

4. In Adam Does Carolina Trust

Speaking of veteran receivers who are being undervalued, how about Adam Thielen in Carolina. With Bryce Young trying to figure out the NFL and D.J. Chark and Terrace Marshall Jr. both battling injuries, Young needs a veteran presence to lean on, and he looks like heíll be leaning on Thielen often, at least early in the season.

Carolinaís first two drives vs. Detroit produced a touchdown, a field goal and four completions (for 48 yards) from Young to Thielen including a 16-yard touchdown. Young has looked competent during the preseason and by all accounts, is ahead of the curve for a rookie signal caller. That bodes well for production in the passing game and the chemistry shown with Thielen means something. You can overdo the importance of preseason games and their ramifications, but who a rookie QB is looking to most in the passing game is relevant. Smart rookie quarterbacks looking to move the chains and trust veteran receivers who know how to get the job done. Two plus two equals four. What that all means is that Thielen is a WR youíll want to have on your team in September and October. After that, heíll likely cool off as other Panther wideouts get healthy.

Draft him in the later rounds or check and see if heís on your waiver wire. Heís worth the pick-up.

5. Spillerís Slow Career Start isnít Picking Up Speed

The prevailing thought coming out of the 2022 draft was that the Chargers had taken Isaiah Spiller to complement Austin Ekeler and that his role would likely grow as his rookie season unfolded followed by an expansion in 2023. As it turned out, Spiller played in just six games averaging a paltry 2.3 yards per carry.

This preseason, things are not looking much better. Spiller carried the ball five times on Friday and only managed 2.8 yards per carry in the process. Meanwhile, Joshua Kelley ripped off a 75-yard TD run and looks like the RB most suited in to spell Ekeler.

If you have Spiller in a dynasty league, I wouldnít wait much longer to cut him loose. And, if youíre looking for a handcuff to Ekeler in a redraft league, it does appear that Kelley is the guy. For Spillerís sake, I hope weíre wrong about this, but the evidence suggests weíre not.

6. Bear Breakout Imminent

Another week of seeing Justin Fields and D.J. Moore and I am growing comfortable with the idea of not waiting to grab one or both of them in redrafts. Sure, Moore only caught one pass on Saturday, but it was a 40-yard dart in which Moore was able to once again show off his skill after the catch. On the first series of the game, Fields also took a deep shot for Moore that narrowly missed being a long TD. Moore is such an upgrade on any wideout that Fields had to work with and with Khalil Herbert healthy and Cole Kmet headed towards a possible career year, I am seeing the Bears as a fantasy relevant franchise for the first time in a long time. Soft defenses in both Minnesota and Detroit also get me excited about the match-ups they should be able to exploit. Fields seems like a bona fide QB1 for fantasy purposes, but I expect Moore to exceed his ADPÖ which by the way has been rising in recent weeks. Rightfully so.

7. Speaking of BreakoutsÖ

The other type of QB getting playing time in Week 3 of the preseason was legendary quarterbacks on brand new teams. Aaron Rodgers got the first two series of the Jetsí final preseason game vs. their local rival, the Giants. Rodgers completed his first pass of the game for 10 yards and a first down to sophomore sensation Garrett Wilson. He completed his final pass of the game for 14 yards and a touchdownÖ also to Wilson.

Corey Davis retired this week. Allen Lazard has missed time in camp due to some nagging injuries and Mecole Hardman injured his hand in the preseasonís final contest. That takes some projected targets off the table for now and should make Rodgers lean heavily on the gifts that Wilson possesses. Much like D.J. Moore, but on a grander scale, Wilsonís ADP continues to improve with every day that passes. The chemistry appears to be growing alongside the immense talent of both players. Think Wilson can be a top-five WR this season in terms of fantasy points? If you do, then you and I agree. Invest if you can.

8. Itís Going to be a Bumpy Road in Indianapolis

Anthony Richardson waited until the final game of the preseason to flash some that speed heís known for. He also displayed some of the bravado that the scouts were impressed by in college. He ran for 38 yards in the first half alone including at one point, a 16-yard scamper. Thatís the good news.

The bad is that he completed only 6-of-17 passes and for a little over 4 yards an attempt. The other two Colts quarterbacks that played completed 15 of 19 in the same system. Sure, they were going against lesser defensive personnel in some cases, but their relative success compared to Richardsonís struggles show how far the rookie has to go to become a consistent producer. Do I think Richardson is capable of 100-yard rushing games this season? I do. I think it will happen more than once. But as a passer, he looks limited right now in terms of accuracy and some significant growing pains should be expected as a result. With Jonathan Taylor still to play out, all signs point to this as an offense to avoid.

9. Mims Looking the Part in Mile High

Injuries to veteran players have long added up to opportunities for rookie to step in and contribute right away. On draft day, Marvin Mims was thought of as a player Denver could develop during his rookie year and perhaps turn into a producer by the second half of the season. After all, the trio of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick were blocking his path to instant contribution.

Now, in late August, Patrick is out for the year once again due to injury and Jeudy has a hamstring injury that could linger well into the regular season. Enter Mims who caught a 50-yarder on Saturday night and should have scored a TD which was prevented by a facemask so violent that it led to the ejection of the offender.

Even if Jeudy doesnít miss time, Mims may be carving out a role to begin the season and is looking like a player to target in the back half of your draft. The Rams basically lay down in the preseason (itís a McVay thing), but the eye test still says Mims is the real deal. Real deal, meet opportunity.

10. Too Many Tight Ends in New Orleans

Finally, the preseason wound down for good last night in New Orleans with the Saints taking on the Texans. One of the highlights was a terrific downfield catch from longtime vet Jimmy Graham which he later followed up with a touchdown grab. Graham appears to have something left in the tank even as he is buried on the depth chart behind Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill. Assuming Graham makes the team, this looks like a situation where there are too many mouths to feed, devaluing all of them for fantasy purposes - especially if Michael Thomas can actually stay healthy for the first time in many years. Glad to see Jimmy play well, but that TE room in New Orleans looks crowded from our vantage point.

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