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Fri Aug 23rd 2019

15 Lessons From Preseason Week Three

Players on the rise or fall

It's important not to read too much into preseason games given that you never know what coaches are looking for and trying to accomplish in these games.  If you watch carefully, however, you can take away several things that affect players' dynasty values.  I just finished watching all of the preseason games played on Friday and Saturday, and here are 15 things I took away that changed player values in my rankings. 

1. Sony Michel is healthy and looking great.

  • If you've been following me this year, you know I am lower on Michel than most people are.  It's not because of talent.  It's because of injury and competition with Damien Harris who I am higher on than anyone else.  I have to admit that he looked really good Thursday night, and the Patriots did commit themselves to the run just as I think they will do throughout this year.  I expect Harris to cut into Michel's workload and I expect Michel to get hurt.  Either back will look great in this offense, Michel should get the first opportunity to do so.  He looked awesome Thursday night, and it was Harris who left the field with a minor injury.

2. JJ Acrega-Whiteside has earned playing time.

  • JJ looked like a man among boys Thursday night, catching 8 of 9 passes thrown his way for 104 yards and a touchdown.  He's too good to be sitting behind Jeffrey, Jackson, and Agholor.  He is going to play a lot in his rookie year.   Now's the time to buy him before the lazy owners in your leagues know what they have in him.  Once they see him in-season his price is going to rise.  Doug Pederson spoke glowing about JJ after the game, and he's the kind of coach that plays his best players and knows how to bring players in for specific packages and plays.  He'll create opportunities for JJ early and often.

3.  Dede Westbrook will be the WR1 in Jacksonville.

  • The Jag's new QB, Nick Foles, only had eyes for Westbrook Thursday night.  Westbrook was targeted 7 times out of 10 by Foles.  He only hauled in 4 of the 7 passes for 29 yards but one was a well-designed touchdown pass.  Dede is primed for the traditional third-year breakout.  I think it's going to happen.

4. Leonard Fournette will be involved in the passing game.

  • The other three passes thrown by Nick Foles went to Fournette.  He caught two of the three and looked natural in doing so.  The Jags have been telling everyone that Fournette would be more involved in the passing game this year.  Now we have reason to believe them.  We all know that RB receptions are way more valuable than runs, so if this gets added to Fournette's game, his value rises quite a bit.  He still carries the injury-prone label and sometimes shows a lack of effort, which has brought his value down over this last year.  Catching passes could move him back up to the value he used to have two years ago.

5. The Washington backfield is going to be a mess.

  • It was nice to see Darius Guice back in action.  They gave him a decent workload too (11 runs and one pass).  He didn't look incredible, but he also did not look unhealthy or bad.  Chis Thompson also played well and showed a lot more burst than Guice.  Adrian Peterson did not play which points to him being the starter in week one and he looked good in last week's preseason game.  This backfield is going to be a mess for at least this year.  Add to that the fact that Washington is likely going to be one of the worst teams this year with fewer scoring opportunities, and this seems like a backfield to avoid.

6. The New England receiver group is going to be a mess.

  • The same could be said for the Patriots WR corps.  Jakobi Meyers has come out of nowhere as a UDFA and played extremely well.  Josh Gordon gets reinstated this week, and Edelman is about to come back from his injury.  Thursday night Phillip Dorsett caught 7 passes as did Meyers.  It's going to take some time to figure this situation out.  There is no certainty that Josh Gordon can come back and play well.  I am sure Edelman will.  I am also sure Dorsett and Meyers will make the team and they hold decent dynasty value while Edelman and Gordon get older and more injury-prone and suspension-prone, respectively.

7. Kalen Ballage does not have good vision.

  • He looked awful Thursday night.  His 12 runs went for 17 yards.  It's obvious that he just lacks vision.  Every carry he seemed to run straight into the back of his offensive linemen.  Drake may be hurt, but don't let that fool you into letting Ballage's value rise.  I mistakenly did that after the injury, but I need to adjust my rankings because of what I saw Thursday night.

8. Don't cut Rodney Anderson next week.

  • On paper, Anderson is the 4th RB on the Bengal's depth chart behind Mixon, Bernard, and fellow rookie Williams.  On talent, however, he is second and close to even with Joe Mixon.  Anderson could have been the #1 RB drafted in the NFL draft last year were it not for his injury history.  It was great to see him back in action Thursday night.  Granted, he did not do much running the ball (8 carries for 7 yards), but he looked great in the passing game (4 catches for 51 yards).  On the passes, you could see his speed and agility.  What stands out is his size.  He's very thick and looks nothing like the two guys presumably ahead of him on the depth chart.  If he's healthy enough to touch the ball that many times in preseason game #3, then he's going to get chances to prove himself on the practice field.  Don't drop this guy when it comes time to trim back rosters before game one, and put a waiver bid on him after week one if someone else dies.

9. TJ Hockenson will break out year one.

  • I loved the way they used TJ Friday night.  He was lined up all over the place and was in motion many times before the snaps.  He was targeted 4 times and caught 3 passes for 52 yards.  He was targeted underneath and deep down the field.  He's going to be one of the rare tight ends that breaks out in year one.  He won't have to sit on our dynasty benches at all.  Start him right away unless you also have one of the top 5-6 tight ends on your roster.

10. Josh Allen can't win through the air.

  • Allen has a horrible game Friday night.  He was inaccurate and threw an awful interception that was called back after a roughing the passer call.  Add to that the fact that Buffalo looks like a team committed to run the ball way more than they pass and they have the defense to win that way.  If Allen is not giving your team points on the ground, he won't be worth starting this year.  He's too inaccurate to win through the air.

11. Keesean Johnson is the best rookie in Arizona.

  • Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler were drafted ahead of Keesean in the NFL draft and our dynasty rookie drafts, but he has already surpassed them on the Arizona depth chart.  He looked great in preseason game #3, catching all 7 of his targets for 85 yards.  Best of all, he did it on a variety of routes, which is where he is winning and why he has passed others in the depth chart.  I still have two concerns with the Arizona offense.  One, will it work in the NFL.  Two, why they mix in different receivers so often between plays.  Still, Keesean is moving up in my rankings and I rejected two strong trade offers for him this week.  He could be starting alongside Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald this year.

12. Matt Breida one of the most underrated players in the NFL.

  • Breida is one of my most owned players.  I've always been higher on him than other analysts and I was not scared at all when Tevin Coleman landed in San Francisco in free agency.  Breida is not built to be an every-down back, but he can be the better half of a two-way backfield.  Saturday He looked just the part (the better part) of the backfield.  He's far quicker and tougher than Coleman.  Plus, they've been moving him around a lot in the formation like when he caught a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo from the wide receiver position.  He's a far more complete running back than people give him credit for.

13. Damien Williams is going to be just fine, even if Darwin Thompson cuts into his workload.

  • Another preseason game and another explosive first-quarter touchdown for Kansas City.  Williams took a wheel route 62 yards to the house and smoked everyone along the way.  He's going to a weapon in the passing game and Andy Reid knows just how to use him.  Darwin Thompson has impressed this offseason, but just enough to leap ahead of Hyde to be the RB2 in Kansas City.  If Damien is spelled just enough to stay healthy, he'll finish as an RB1 in dynasty this year.  There is nothing to be afraid of here.  In Andy Reid running backs we trust.

14. Tyler Lockett can do it again this year.

  • Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett had a historically efficient year last year.  It seems unrepeatable, but from what I saw Saturday night I am not so sure.  Lockett simply excels at getting wide open on broken plays and Wilson is the master at keeping plays alive.  They did it again in this game with 2 explosive catches of 20 and 30 yards.  It took him some time to get there, but Lockett has become a very safe WR2 in dynasty teams. Injuries to Metcalf and Moore this week mean Lockett will get even more looks than before.

15. Damarea Crockett is going to lead the Texans in rushing.

  • This one stinks given that it's due to injury, but Crockett's value is on the rise after Lamar Miller was lost for the season.  The rest of the preseason game more of the carries went to Karon Higdon which signifies that they wanted to keep Crockett safe.  I almost wrote about Crockett after his week-two preseason game because he showed some burst and more importantly did well in pass protection.  I don't believe Duke Johnson can carry the load in Houston.  I believe they traded for him with a specific role in mind and aim to keep him splitting touches with the next man up, and that next man is Damarea Crockett.

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