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Fri Aug 18th 2023

Training Camp Player Hype - Week 3.5

I'm posting this article earlier than usual because this weekend is the Dynasty Freeks weekend on the lake. My Freek league, comprised of college buddies, started 25 years ago, and each year we gather on Lake LBJ to catch up, talk football, and draft. We usually meet over Labor Day weekend, but we had to meet a few weeks earlier this year due to scheduling conflicts. We decided to keep our rookie draft on Labor Day weekend, so we'll begin a slow draft that weekend.

Because I'm gathering with the Dynasty Freeks this weekend, I can only watch the week two preseason games later next week. I will watch all of them and write a future article with my week two observations. Still, for now, I can write about the late games I watched last week and overall news from training camp, where many teams held scrimmages this week, making for head-to-head competitions and objective information in camps.

I apologize for the off-schedule article, but I'll enjoy my long weekend with my Freeky friends. Before the weekend starts, I wanted to share my thoughts on the following players from a dynasty perspective.

Sam Howell and Jahan Dotson

  • This morning, Howell was officially named the starter. He looked great in his first preseason game, throwing on-time passes, running for one first down, and hitting Jahan Dotson for a touchdown. He's taken first-team reps since day one in camp, and all reports from camp say that he's looked great and has chemistry with his top-two targets, Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. Dotson has received more training camp hype than McLaurin. Beat reporters have posted several videos showing Dotson destroying defensive backs with his route running. I will not be surprised if Dotson overtakes McLaurin this year to become Howell's favorite target and most productive receiver. There's only one year of evidence, but Dotson has a knack for scoring touchdowns, while McLaurin does not. It's proven true in one season together and has manifested in training camp and the first preseason game. Howell will be the best quarterback McLaurin has ever had in Washington, so his production should improve this season, too, but I predict Dotson to be the most productive, which thrills me since Dotson is tied for my most rostered player.

Aidan O'Connell and Zamir White

  • O'Connell looked fantastic in his first preseason game, the first live-action of his NFL career. The same cannot be said for Zamir White. O'Connell led the team to 24 points in the first half with only second-team receivers to catch passes. He was on time and in command of the offense, with only three incompletions on 18 pass attempts. Jimmy Garoppolo has a little to worry about after last week's performance by O'Connell. He's not in danger of losing his starting position, but he is among the most vulnerable quarterbacks in the league for doing so, and that was before seeing O'Connell play. Managers who drafted O'Connell late in superflex leagues have great players to stash on their benches. As for White, he saw the most action he had ever seen in a game, but he did not do anything special. He got what was given to him but nothing more. He scored a short-yardage touchdown but failed to convert on a fourth-and-one play. It's just one game, but he's not given me hope that he could be a surprise breakout player if Josh Jacobs continues to hold out this season.

Trey Lance and Marcus Mariota

  • Trey Lance and Marcus Mariota looked terrible in their preseason games, especially Mariota's second game on Thursday night. They were incredibly inaccurate with their ball placement and showed that they're incompetent backup quarterbacks. It's clear to me that Sam Darnold has the 49ers backup role locked down, and Lance is no longer even a tradable asset for the 49ers. Tanner McKee also struggled with accuracy for the Eagles, but he played better than Mariota the last two weeks. He's less similar to the style of Jalen Hurts, but so far, he'd be a better backup to Hurts than Mariota. Quarterback is a tricky position, and NFL general managers get it wrong all the time when drafting them in the first round. Sadly, these two first-round draft picks are not even qualified backups.

Dalvin Cook

  • Much to the chagrin of Breece Hall managers, Cook signed with the Jets this week. It's a one-year deal, so it does not ding Hall's dynasty value, but it makes him less reliable in fantasy lineups this season. I had hoped Cooks would sign with the Dolphins, where I thought he could thrive and get the bulk of the team carries. With the Jets, he will split time with Hall, especially as the season progresses. The dynasty value most affected by Cooks' signing is Michael Carter and Izzy Abanikanda. I'm a big believer in Abanikanda, who has looked great in his first two preseason games, but he's in real competition now for a roster spot, let alone a role on the team. The following preseason games will significantly determine the Jets' backfield roles. I believe Carter and Abanikanda will make the team, and Zonovan Night will get cut. Still, their opportunity for playing time this year diminishes unless Cooks or Hall get injured. I'm still holding them on my rosters, but they are at the very backend of my benches now.

Ezekiel Elliot

  • Zeke's signing with the Patriots did little to hurt the dynasty value of Rhamondre Stevenson, but it will affect his goalline usage and receptions this season. Zeke's best strengths at this stage of his career are pass protection and short-yardage running. Stevenson will miss out on some of those opportunities this year. Zeke's signing is the final straw revealing what the Patriots believe about Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. Strong is one of my most rostered players, and I hoped he would earn more playing time this season. I'm now willing to admit I'm wrong, and Strong is a player I'll consider cutting when we cut rosters in a few weeks. I've already dropped Harris from my rosters last week. This is disappointing, but I have to adjust my expectation accordingly.

Duece Vaughn

  • Vaughn looked fantastic in his first preseason game, matching the training camp hype he had received for weeks. He's quickly become a fan favorite and will demand more playing time in the preseason and move up the depth chart before the regular season opener. I added Rico Dowdle on several rosters a week or two ago after he was listed as the backup to Tony Pollard on Dallas's first released depth chart. After watching Vaughn's first preseason game, I dropped Dowdle immediately. Vaughn will be one of the best steals of rookie drafts. I wish I would have valued him more and drafted him, but I don't have a single share. His incredible college production should have trumped his size and draft capital concerns. I hope to draft him in my upcoming Freek rookie draft.

A.T. Perry

  • Perry had a fantastic first showing while running with the Saints' second-team offense. He has stiff competition to earn a starting role on the team, with Chirs Olave and Michael Thomas cemented as the starters, but he could battle for a starting role in three-receiver sets and beat our Rashid Shaheed. Perry is a more prototypical X receiver, so his real competition is with Michael Thomas, but the coaching staff will find ways to get him involved if he plays like he did in his first preseason game. Perry's draft capital and landing spot dinged his value in rookie drafts, but he was a player I drafted with my last pick in a few leagues, and I added him off the waiver wire in one league after a four-round rookie draft. I have taxi squads in all the leagues where I added him. He's a perfect player to have on leagues with taxi squads. I'm glad he impressed right away. Even in leagues without taxi squads, he'll be hard to cut when rosters get trimmed.

Puca Nacua

  • The hype train for Puca Nacua continues to roll on, and it grew louder after scoring a touchdown on his first preseason game. Reporters continually post videos of him working guys over in practice and scoring touchdowns. I saw another one posted this morning. I'm glad I got on the Nacua hype train earlier than most dynasty managers. He and Tyler Scott are my most drafted rookies. He will earn a starting role in three-receiver sets by the time the season starts and become a versatile weapon in the Rams' offense. Like Vaughn, he's one of the steals of this year's rookie class.

Juwan Johnson

  • Johnson has received a steady drumbeat of praise throughout the off-season, and reporters have said he's become Derek Carr's "go-to man." The reports of Johnson watching Julian Edelman's film to improve his route running seemed ridiculous since he's a tight end, but maybe as a converted receiver, there's more to the story. Johnson caught two of Carr's passes on their opening touchdown drive, including a third-down conversion to keep the drive alive. The Saints' first-team offense left the field after that drive, and then A.T. Perry stole the show. Johnson relied on touchdowns for fantasy production last year. This season he could produce with or without the touchdowns. Johnson was a steal off the waiver wire last year. I never added him because I don't rely on tight ends, who only produce with touchdowns. I missed out on a player who can do more than that this season.

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