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Tue Aug 15th 2023

Training Camp Player Hype - Week Three

Week three of training camp is in the books, and every team has played a preseason game. I was able to watch all of the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday day games, but I have yet to watch the Saturday night and Sunday preseason games. I drove to Dallas this weekend to join my comanager, Dave Brown, for our Reality Sports Online free agent auction draft. It was a blast to draft together, but the drive land draft limited my ability to watch the last few preseason games of the week, but I will watch them.

I watched most of the preseason games and walked away with some takes on the players who stood out, whether for good or bad. It's just the first preseason game, and we never know what coaches are trying to accomplish with the game plan and player snap counts, but at least we got to see some young players on the field for the first time. Here are a few players who stood out to me in the games I watched this week.

C.J. Stroud

  • Stroud looked terrible in his first preseason game. He threw an interception and had happy feet in the pocket, bailing out of the pocket on most of his pass plays. He had a nice quick pass to Nico Collins on the first drive but struggled to read defenses and make quick reads on almost every play after that. Rookie quarterbacks often struggle in their first season, let alone the preseason, so I am not reading too much into his poor play, especially given that almost all rookie quarterbacks could have looked better in their first preseason game.

Anthony Richardson

  • Richardson threw a terrible interception on the first possession of his first preseason game. He immediately threw off-platform and learned that arm strength is not enough in the NFL. He only played three possessions and did not lead the team on a scoring drive, though he dropped a dime into the hands of Alec Pierce, who dropped what would have been an excellent touchdown pass. Richardson did little on the ground, but his drives were too short to get much started. I was much lower on Richardson than other dynasty managers and analysts during the rookie draft season, and I continue to value him less as the season opener nears. C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young have a much better pedigree, college production, and draft capital. They barely beat Richardson on draft capital, but they were drafted ahead of Richardson for a reason, though Richardson was drafted ahead of them in all nine of my dynasty rookie drafts. Like all rookies, he can and will improve, but the early mistake in this game is what I expect to be the norm for Richardson.

Bryce Young

  • Young looked the most comfortable and posed of all the rookie quarterbacks. He mostly threw passes to his first reads. He progressed through his reads a few times to find an open man. On most of his completions, his pass catchers were wide open, though he once squeezed a contested catch into D.J. Chark on the sideline. The only knock on Young in his first games was his inability to complete passes on third down. He missed his targets a lot on third down and could not sustain drives in his debut. He got sacked a few times and was knocked to the ground too. Seeing that he could take a beating at his size was good. He didn't extend plays like he often did in college, but that will come. The plan was to give him easy and short passes to get comfortable, and he did that well in his first game. Young may not have the best career in this class of quarterbacks, but he'll definitely have the fastest start to his career and fantasy production.

Sean Clifford

  • It first must be said that he threw two interceptions. In the first one, he completely did not see the defender, and it was 100% his fault, leading to a pick-six. The second one was a contested catch where the receiver could have fought harder to catch the ball or at least keep the defender from securing it. He threw two interceptions but led the Packers to a comeback win. Take away the two interceptions, and he was 20 for 24 for 208 yards and a touchdown. What impressed me most, though, was his command of the offense, his fearlessness, and his accuracy. He threw a few big-boy NFL passes, hitting receivers between defenders and in perfect stride. I would be concerned about his position if Jordan Love looked bad in this game. Love played well, however, so he has nothing to fear with Clifford behind him. Still, Clifford is a player I am adding to my superflex rosters this week. I bought him as my final pick for $0 in my one rookie auction draft. It's a 14-team superflex league where rostering backup quarterbacks is wise. I can't wait to see more of him in the final two preseason games.

Kenny Pickett

  • Pickett can give these rookie quarterbacks hope because he improved steadily in his rookie season last year and played great in his first preseason game in his second year. He led the team on an 83-yard touchdown drive on his first possession. He hit target-hog Diontae Johnson three times on the drive before connecting with fellow second-year man George Pickens for a 33-yard touchdown over the middle. That was all we saw of Pickett, but it was enough for me to believe that the Steeler offense will be more productive this season after a pretty down season last year. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren rotated in and out on the first drive with the first-team offense, something beat reporters have suggested would happen. The rotation could hurt the expected production of Harris. Still, other than that, every offensive player on the Steelers should help fantasy managers this season much more than they did last season.

Pierre Strong

  • The Patriots have yet to bring in a veteran running back, though they are still looking. Strong outplayed Kevin Harris in the first preseason game, confirming my hopes that Strong will earn the RB-2 role and be a significant part of the offense this year. He didn't do anything significant in the game but was decisive on his carries and involved in the passing game, receiving three targets and two catches. Harris may have had carries later in the game with more replacement linemen ahead of him, but even so, his eight carries for ten yards looked pretty bad. Strong is the more explosive back and is better in the passing game, so I'm growing in confidence that he will be the Patriots' RB-2, which has been my bet throughout this offseason since I have him in three of my nine leagues after trading for him in one league during the rookie draft.

Zach Charbonnet

  • Charbonnet returned from his "indefinite" injury and recovered to practicing this week and playing in the Seahawk's first preseason game. He did not do anything fantastic but looked the part of a starter in his first preseason game running with the second-team offense. He had a few powerful runs, two great catches, and finished one by running over a defended with his "injured" shoulder. If you've followed my work, you know I believe Charbomnet will become the Seahawk's passing downs and short yardage back. That's why I drafted him twice and traded a first and second-round pick for him and Elijah Moore last week. I put my money where my mouth is with Charbonnet. If Kenneth Walker's injury lingers, his role could be even more significant than I anticipated when drafting and trading for him.

Khalil Herbert

  • As I expected, Herbert was the starting back on all possessions with Justin Fields at quarterback. He had a few modest runs and one ridiculous 55-yard touchdown reception where he showed his decent speed and exceptional balance on the sideline, refusing to get pushed out of bounds or tackled. D'Onta Foreman did not do much, and Roschon Johnson looked good for a rookie in mop-up duty, but preseason game one did more to convince me that the starting job is Herbert's to lose, and he won't lose it. At the end of last season, I traded a second-round pick for him, convinced that the Bears would not re-sign David Montgomery but would make Herbert their next lead back. Additionally, during a rookie draft this year, I traded Brandin Cooks for Herbert and Pierre Strong. Herbert is a big part of my plans on a few dynasty teams, just as he's a big part of the Bears' plans this year.

De'Von Achane

  • Achane was involved a lot in his first preseason game, but he could have done more to impress. He did well in the passing game with 41 yards receiving on four catches, but he did not do much in the running game with ten carries for just 25 yards. They tried to feed him a few times near the goal line, but he could not score. Myles Gaskin looked like a far better player when he carried the ball in this game, and he's the third-string running back behind Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. This performance is about what I expected from the small-framed rookie running back who does not have the size for a lead role in the NFL. Mike McDaniel will do his best to use Achane as an offensive weapon more than an actual running back. He will, and Achane will help the team with big plays throughout the season. He won't help dynasty teams if they are looking for a reliable floor from week to week. Achane could prove me wrong, but he's a player I'm not interested in having on my dynasty rosters, and his first preseason game made me more confident in that take. I'm glad I drafted Charbonnet in every draft when the two of them were still on the board.

Ty Chandler

  • Two weeks ago I wrote about how I still believe Ty Chandler is the RB-2 in Minnesota, even though Kene Nwangwu was receiving training camp hype. Chandler looked fantastic as the lead back with the second team offense racking up 70 yards in the running and passing game on 15 touches. Coaches praised his efforts after the game. Chandler's dynasty value stands room to grow significantly. I'm eager to see him in more preseason games to see how he stacks up compared to Alexander Mattison. Chandler was on the waiver wire in one of my rookie drafts this season and I debated between drafting him or Tyler Scott in the fourth round. While I love Scott, and wrote about the buzz he is received in camp last week, I wish I had one share of Chandler now.

Tyjae Spears

  • Any hope that Hassan Haskins's managers held on to has died after seeing the difference between the two backs in the first preseason game. Spears looked explosive and quick, while Haskins again looked slow and plodding. Spears was swift and decisive on his carries, hitting holes and averaging more than five yards per carry. Haskins averaged two yards per carry. If this is finally the year Derrick Henry falls off a cliff, Spears is the benefactor. I thought Haskins could be the handcuff while Spears carried the role in the passing game, but I was wrong. I passed on Spears in every rookie draft this year, drafting Michael Mayer, Jayden Reed, and Josh Downs ahead of him. Now I wish I had a share or two of Spears. He looked the part of an NFL running back in his first game. I knocked him for being a small school guy, and after his physical revealed that he did not have an intact ACL. Sometimes my process needs to be corrected, and I am willing to admit I missed on Spears, who looked fantastic in his first preseason game.

Tank Dell

  • The most exciting player in preseason week one was Tank Dell. He was the star of the game with five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. That looks good enough, but he could have had an even better game had he been hit in stride on one catch and not missed several times when he was open, but the quarterbacks looked elsewhere. Wide receiver film gurus posted many videos after the game to show how Dell put defensive backs in a blender with his routes. He absolutely did! A month ago, I wrote about how Dell was the player in the Houston wide receiver battle that I was most hopeful for. After week one, I am right. I'm thrilled about my two shares of Dell and am eager to see how high he rises in rookie rankings during my final rookie draft before the season starts. This preseason will make him one of the rookies who rises the most!

Adam Trautman & Greg Dulcich

  • Adam Trautman ran with the first-team offense and had two catches, while Greg Dulcich only played on passing downs. Sean Payton's comments about Dulcich have been back and forth this offseason, causing Dulcich's dynasty stock to fluctuate up and down. If the first preseason game is any indication, his stock is falling while Trautman's stock rebounds. Trautman was a favorite late-round pick of mine in the 2020 class. Payton drafted him in New Orleans and quickly added him to the Broncos roster once he took the head coaching job. Trautman was listed as the starting tight end on the Bronco's first released depth chart, which doesn't always mean anything, but his time with the first-team offense this week does. Trautman will be my most added player on waivers this week.

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