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Tue Aug 31st 2021

Preseason Week Three Observations

Most coaches treated this third preseason game like they did the fourth preseason game in years past by resting their starters. Many of the players that played last weekend will get cut today, the day that all teams must trim their rosters to 53 players. The games were far less entertaining, and there were fewer things to learn from a dynasty perspective.

Thankfully, a few teams did play their first and second-team players. Some starters even played for the first time this preseason, giving me one final week of observations before the season starts September 9th. Here are a few of the players and situations that stood out to me in preseason week three.

Sam Darnold

  • Sam Darnold led the team on two touchdown drives and looks like he's ready for the best season of his career. Darnold will never carry an NFL team, but he can manage an offense when he has good weapons and an innovative coach. He has both of those things in Carolina with Joe Brady and his top three receivers, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall. Let alone the best weapon in the league, Christian McCaffrey. Darnold will have a good season because Carolina will prevent problems to all of the defenses they face, and Joe Brady will scheme guys open for Darnold. Sam will be a trustworthy starter in superflex leagues and a spot starter in one-quarterback leagues. He'll have the best year of his young career and an opportunity to improve as he gets more adjusted to the scheme and his playmakers.

Josh Allen

  • Josh Allen got his first start of the preseason, and he looked fantastic, even without his top target, Stefon Diggs. He spread the ball around to all of his targets, including his newest weapon, Emmanuel Sanders. Offensive coordinator, Brian Dabol, had Allen in shotgun with three and four-receiver sets almost every play, and Allen dinked and dunked his way down the field at will. The Packers were playing a very vanilla defense, but even so, we got a glimpse of what this offense will look like. They will be one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league, making every wide receiver on the team startable in dynasty lineups. Gabriel Davis may be the odd man out if Sanders plays well and stays healthy. Cole Beasley will have a dependable floor in PPR leagues with five to six catches a game, and Stefon Diggs will lead the league in targets, just as he did last year. The Bill's won't rely much on Devin Singletary or Zack Moss except on short-yardage situations and to keep defenses honest by occasional runs on first down. This is who they are. This is what Josh Allen and Brian Dabol make them.

The Texans Backfield

  • The Texans' backfield is going to be a mess for dynasty managers. They appear committed to their three-headed monster approach. Mark Ingram got the most carries in their last preseason game, David Johnson had the longest run, and Phillip Lindsay played pretty poorly. We've been told that Lindsay is the leading running back with Ingram and Johnson behind him on the depth chart, but it looks to me like they will all see playing time every week, making none of them startable in dynasty lineups. Even at his age, I predict Ingram will score the most fantasy points because I believe he will be used as their goalline back. That's not saying too much, though, because Houston will be one of the worst and lowest-scoring offenses in the league. I recently picked up Ingram off the waiver wire in one of my leagues, but he will not sniff my starting lineup until something changes significantly in their roles or one of the three of their running backs gets injured.

Tom Brady

  • The Buccaneers' offense looked unstoppable with Tom Brady at the helm. Brady played his first preseason game and quickly sliced up the defenses with various types of passes to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Brady and the offense did not start clicking until the back half of the season last year, but they will hit the ground running and embarrass defenses along the way this year. Evans will continue to be Brady's favorite red-zone and outside the hash target, while Godwin and Brown will move all over the formation and the field on their routes. I think each of Brady's receivers provided a high floor week to week, especially in PPR leagues, and every week one of the three will blow up and score 25 or more fantasy points. The Bucs will continue to have a running back committee, but Gio Bernard will be their third-down back, giving Brady even one more weapon in the passing game. Even at 44 years old, Brady will be an automatic starter dynasty leagues.

Melvin Gordon and Courtland Sutton

  • Gordon and Sutton played their first preseason game and reminded dynasty managers that they will have a fantasy impact this year and, in Sutton's case, years to come. Gordon averaged seven yards a carry and showed that he still has burst and tackle-breaking strength. He just played the first few series with the first-team offense, but it was enough to show that he still has dynasty value and will not give his job away to Javonte Williams that easily. The reports of Sutton's lingering effects from his offseason surgery may have been overrated. He played with the first-team offense well into the second quarter and ended his day with a touchdown pass from his new starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. It was great to see both players healthy, back on the field, and playing well. They'll be ready for game number one and in the starting lineups for Denver and dynasty rosters.

Gus Edwards

  • It was terrible to see J.K. Dobbins tear his ACL. Season-ending injuries are the worst for players and dynasty managers. Unfortunately, someone has to benefit for this year if not also for years to come. That someone is Gus Edwards. I already had Edwards ranked higher than most dynasty analysts, now his dynasty value gets another slight bump up, and his value this season rises significantly. Edwards was one of the top players I tried to trade for this offseason. I was only able to acquire him in one league, but it is the league where I am weakest at running back. Now that he has a starting role, I can compete in that league. For years Baltimore has had a committee backfield, and I am sure they will spell Edwards with Justice Hill or Ty'son Williams, but Edwards will still see 15 carries a game in this run-heavy offense. He's a hard-nosed downfield runner and can thrive in their system, which is why they extended his contract this offseason. 

Sterling Shepard

  • Shepard was the most targeted player by Daniel Jones and the Giants in the final preseason game. When healthy, this has been the case for years. Shepard averaged 7.5 targets and 5.5 receptions per game last season. That's enough to provide a very safe floor on rosters in deep leagues. I traded for Shepard in several deep leagues near the end of last season. I was disappointed when the Giants signed Kenny Golladay during free agency because he'd instantly become Jones' top target. Golladay, like Shepard, is often injured as he is now, which is why Shepard was the player Jones had eyes for in this game. Even when Golladay comes back, Shepard should see the ball a lot because he will get all the work underneath while Golladay will be used outside the hashes and deep. Dynasty managers soured on Shepard because he never delivered to the value of a first-round rookie pick, but he's stayed with the Giants, signed a second contract, and provided depth on dynasty rosters. Jones' passing was erratic in this preseason game, as it has been throughout his career. If he can improve even the slightest bit this season, I'm going to be happy to have Shepard on my teams. 

Raheem Mostert

  • Mostert saw his first preseason action in game three, and he reminded everyone what a perfect fit he is for this offense. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry on his seven carries and had a long run of 17 yards. He's just a perfect fit for the Shanahan system. Dynasty managers have dropped Mostert's value too far after the 49ers drafted Trey Sermon. Sermon will not jump Mostert in the starting lineup, but they will be a one-two punch together, with Mostert getting the most touches until the 49ers have secured a win in the game or he gets injured. Mostert is seven years older, so we should rank Sermon ahead of Mostert in dynasty rankings, but I have them ranked much closer than other analysts, with only ten spots separating them from 23rd to 33rd.

Rhomandre Stevenson

  • This week Sony Michel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, and Stevenson scored another preseason touchdown. The Patriots like what they see in Stevenson and are content running him behind Damien Harris while James White maintains his role in the passing game. Stevenson is the player that has moved up the most in my rookie rankings as I've watched preseason games, and their willingness to trade Michel moves him up even more. I have Damien Harris rostered in half of my dynasty leagues and was anticipating a breakout season this year. Stevenson puts a bit of a wet blanket on that hope. By preseason snap counts, it's clear that Harris is the first-team running back, but if Stevenson makes some big plays early in the season against first teams defenses, it's going to be harder for the Patriots not to give him more playing time. All of Stevenson's preseason work has been against the backups to the backups, so let's wait to see what he can do against first-team defenses before moving him up too high in our dynasty rankings.

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