For preseason, usage is the golden nugget, but how they look matters a bit, too. Here are my thoughts after watching each game on all-22. This will be a weekly column: Preseason Week 1. Preseason Week 2. Preseason Week 3 (updating daily).
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There's been speculation that Day 2 rookie Rachaad White (who looks good to be fair) will steal chunks of Lenny's role, but we don't have evidence of that yet. In Round 3, Fournette's range of outcomes includes being this year's league winner ... if you're willing to role the dice on this trend continuing. I'm playing for the upside, while also getting plenty of exposure to White on other teams.
Montgomery is frequently the butt of jokes, but he looks ready for a similar workload to last year when he was the RB16 per game on RB8 fantasy usage. Montgomery played 20-of-22 first-team snaps in Preseason Week 3, and the snaps that he missed were after breaking a 25-yard run. (And if you're wondering, DMont played zero special teams snaps lol). Khalil Herbert can run the ball, but he has struggled on passing downs this preseason in my opinion. Montgomery is a classic RB Dead Zone pick, but he's now being priced in Round 6 or 7. At that point, I'm in. The Bears concepts this preseason look like they're actually playing to Justin Fields' strengths.
Carter started the game and saw more action than Hall did. There wasn't a clear situational trend, but I assume Hall will eventually get most of the goal-line touches and more touches in general as the season progresses. As for early on, Carter may even project better than Hall straight up. He's one of my favorite picks in the double-digit rounds.
A great debut, followed by resting with the starters in Week 2, and then ending the preseason with a score on 6.2 YPC makes Pierce the 2022 Preseason MVP. He'll be the Texans' early-down back with room for passing-down opportunity if replaceable vet Rex Burkhead (or Dare Ogunbowale) can't hold his weight. The fourth-round rookie belongs inside the top-100 as a flex-able RB3. He projects for 200-plus touches at this point. Pierce has good instincts and continues to break tackles, as he did in college. He's one of "My Guys".
The severity (ankle) is unknown, but he was carted off after getting rolled up on. Montgomery likely wasn't going to be fantasy relevant, but if he does miss time, both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson project better. The Patriots have experimented with having their RBs play entire drives, rather than subbing in and out depending on down and distance. If Montgomery (a pass-catching specialist) is out, then Harris and Stevenson likely split this backfield in two, with J.J. Taylor potentially playing two-minute drills. The Patriots were 3rd in RB fantasy usage last year, so both Harris and Stevenson could project as low-end RB2 or flex plays every week.
Just horrific. Robinson is in stable condition, but this is obviously traumatic and we wish him the best both physically and mentally. It's too early to tell how long he'll be away from the team, though he could be released from the hospital soon following a successful surgery. Coach Ron Rivera said the team is hopeful to have their presumed starting RB back this season. Until then, Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic will be in the same roles as they were in last season when Gibson was a fringe RB2/3 and McKissic was a PPR-only RB4.
This wasn't the case previously, but we can feel very comfortable now drafting White as a potential league-winner in the double-digit rounds. He's looked quick to the edge and has drawn plus reviews in camp. Aside from the Preseason Week 2 fumble, White has been as advertised. Get exposure ASAP.
Mattison wants to be a starter and the Vikings only have him under contract for one more season. Because of his previous production and his size relative to the other Vikings backs, I'd think they'd want to hold onto Mattison. They'll need somewhere around a 4th or 5th round pick as he'd be eligible for the compensatory pick formula when he signs next year. There are some teams, however, that definitely want a bruiser type in their backfield, particularly the Chargers, Eagles, and Dolphins.
Gage hasn't practiced in weeks and coach Todd Bowles said he wasn't going to guarantee he'll be back for Week 1. Chris Godwin is progressing but Week 1 could be too soon, too. We could be looking at a top-36 WR ranking for Mr. Julio Jones to start the season.
This one isn't surprising either if you've been reading and listening. The Jets offense, which will probably be below-average again, uses more 2-WR sets than most offenses. It's important to see who is in these valuable sets, and right now it's Elijah Moore and Davis, who is a former first-rounder and is making $13.6M this season. It'll be somewhat difficult for Wilson to surpass Davis on the depth chart early in the season, especially because Davis is a well-respected do-everything X receiver. His size is appreciated in this balanced offense. I'm out on Wilson for 2023, though he could be a Post-Bye Rookie Bump candidate this year still. Meanwhile, Braxton Berrios is playing in the slot in almost all 3-WR sets. He signed a $7M guaranteed contract this offseason.
Burks started on the outside next to Robert Woods (Z) and Kyle Phillips (slot), but the big piece of context is Nick Westbrook-Ikhine rested. The first-round rookie and NWI are competing for snaps with the assumption that NWI gets the nod early in the year. Of course, if Burks is good as his prospect profile suggests, then he'll be a Post-Bye Rookie Bump candidate.
The Cowboys rested their starters, but Tolbert was out there for most of the first half and wasn't a full-time player still. Meanwhile, his primary competition Noah Brown was resting alongside CeeDee Lamb. Tolbert has reportedly been inconsistent in camp and is not going to be a 2-WR set starter early on. More importantly, Michael Gallup (ACL) is not going on PUP, so the Cowboys expect him to be available before Week 4. I'd straight up rather have Brown, and their ADPs are nowhere near each other. Tolbert is the player I have ranked lowest versus ADP.
The Patriots will be in them often, so these are the Patriots receivers to know. Nelson Agholor was a 3-WR set starter and has some Better In Best Ball appeal, too, at least until Tyquan Thornton returns in about two months. Kendrick Bourne looks to be the odd man out. He didn't play until Meyers suffered a hopefully minor injury. Parker is the best bet for full-time snaps and red zone production, after running a route on 16-of-16 dropbacks here. Meyers may be Mac Jones' check-down option between the 20s, so both are no more than WR4/5s.
This was expected, but Mostert played with the starters and was pulled early. Myles Gaskin actually played ahead of Michel, too. There's a chance Michel is cut. That would leave Mostert as an early-down rusher and Edmonds on passing downs. Splitting work between two RBs instead of three would be a win. Since we haven't seen Mostert and Edmonds together this preseason, it's unclear who will take goal-line carries. They could bring in a bruiser like Ronald Jones after cuts. We'll see.
Njoku has played 39-of-42 first-string snaps this preseason. With his athleticism and the lack of target competition here, he has a chance of being a top-12 fantasy TE this year.
Finally some good news with Okwuegbunam. The previous two weeks, he was rotating with the run-blocking TEs based on personnel, and it was going into the fourth quarter ... without Day 2 receiving TE Greg Dulcich suiting up. Resting with the starters makes him draftable but there are still TE2s going after him that I'd rather have.
Based on his preseason usage, Fant is a part-time player who will rotate in with Dissly. It's concerning that he didn't even start over Dissly in Preseason Week 3. This was similar to Preseason Week 2.
The key context here is that Pharaoh Brown, who was called the starter earlier in camp, hasn't been playing, but Jordan has been in a fantasy-friendly role in Houston. Per Establish The Run's Adam Levitan, he's run 40 routes and pass-blocked just twice while playing on 58-of-71 first-team snaps. Jordan bombed the NFL Combine but was viewed as a Day 2 receiving specialist before. In year three, he has a chance to outplay some of the current fantasy TE2s who are in rotational hell.
The Colts don't have nearly as good of depth as they did previously. Jack Doyle is retired. Day 2 dart throw Jelani Woods hasn't translated per training camp reports. And Kylen Granson is too small for a full-time role. MAC is one of the best TE3 dart throws out there and could be a TD-or-bust TE2 this season.
I'm not sure how long this will last. Campbell's injury history is obviously lengthy, but more importantly, Pierce has the size and downfield profile that benefits most in 2-WR sets. Whoever has this role is the one to roster at the end of your fantasy bench. Pierce may not have that initially, but he has Post-Bye Rookie Bump written all over him.
The Chiefs starters didn't play, including Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon besides the first few snaps. CEH has been the early-down and short-yardage back this preseason with McKinnon primarily playing on passing downs as usual. Seventh-round rookie Pacheco has been ahead of RoJo all preseason, but they're more or less competing for the same job as CEH's direct backup on early downs. Pacheco will make the team as a core special teamer, so it depends if RoJo is liked enough to carry a fourth RB on the 53-man roster. The fact that he never played with Mahomes in preseason action seems like a bad sign, but the Chiefs did carry a fourth RB at times last year. Either way, McKinnon seems like the best bet as the RB2 in Kansas City. He played 70% or more of the Chiefs' NFL Playoffs games last year.
The starters played the first two/threes drives, but Elijah Mitchell (hamstring) was out, so veteran Jeff Wilson drew the start in the dress rehearsal after missing the first two preseason games. Trey Sermon was next in line, and he played alright (see below lol) while playing passing downs, too. Jordan Mason played next and didn't have anywhere to run. JaMycal Hasty was fourth in line, ahead of third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who entered in the fourth quarter with third-stringers. TDP also was the only 49ers RB to be subbed out on passing downs. ... There's probably only room four four RBs here, so two will likely be released. 49ers GM John Lynch touted Sermon during the broadcast, so I'm guessing he'll make the team as the RB2 or RB3, depending if they keep Wilson (the current RB2) or Hasty (arguably their best passing-down RB). All of these backs played special teams in Preseason Week 3, so that's not a huge factor. Lots can change here, but the fact that nobody separated solidifies Mitchell's standing as the clear-cut RB1 assuming health.
Brate is the Bucs' starter. Kyle Rudolph mixed in for three snaps but is more washed at this point in my opinion. Last year even with Gronk dominating for more than half the season, Brate was the TE7 in expected TDs (6.7). You could do worse than a 70% player attached to Tom Brady in Round 18 as your TE3.
For those keeping score at home, Kelley is the Austin Ekeler insurance to know, at least until Isaiah Spiller (ankle) returns from his week-to-week injury. Kelley looks a bit faster this year on tape. Good leverage play in Best Ball Mania III.
This has gone back and forth this preseason, but Warren offers more juice than Snell in general. This could be a two-back committee if Najee Harris misses time this season.