Fantasy Football Takeaways from Week 3 of the Preseason

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The final week of the NFL preseason is officially in the books! While we don’t want to overreact to what happened on the field in an exhibition game with some starters playing and some starters resting, it is important to take note of what happened and how players were used as this can be a signal of how coaches plan to allocate playing time, distribute touches, etc.

If you missed this weekend’s action, below are my 10 biggest takeaways from Week 3 of the NFL preseason. You can find my Week 1 Takeaways in this article and my Week 2 Takeaways here.

*Usage notes below from PFF

1. Evan Hull and Deon Jackson are the late round targets if the Colts trade Jonathan Taylor.

As of this writing on Monday morning, the Colts have not officially dealt Jonathan Taylor, though there’s reports that the Dolphins do indeed have an offer on the table. If Taylor is moved via trade, or he simply chooses to sit out this season do to his ongoing contract situation, Evan Hull and Deon Jackson look like they’ll be running with the first team offense. In their final preseason game against Philly, Anthony Richardson played 37 snaps – Hull (20) and Jackson (17) were the only two backs to play with Richardson and the ones. Jackson started with the game, but the two rotated thereafter.

It is important to note that Zack Moss is still a threat to take over lead back duties once he recovers from his fractured forearm, but he hasn’t participated at all this preseason because of injury. Indy cut Kenyan Drake following their third preseason game.

2. David Njoku‘s route rate is encouraging.

In the final preseason game for Cleveland, Deshaun Watson and the starters played 20 total snaps with Watson dropping back 11 times. Njoku led the team in routes run, running a route on every Watson drop back.¬†While this 100% route rate won’t hold across a larger sample, it’s big time bump from what he was doing last year.

3. Romeo Doubs sits with hamstring injury.

This injury flew under the radar a little bit over the last several days, but the Packers chose to sit Romeo Doubs due to a hamstring injury. The team states that they’re just being “precautionary” holding Doubs out of their final preseason game, but it is something to watch over the next two weeks. The rest of the starters played 28 snaps with Jordan Love. Christian Watson was out there for all 28 snaps and ran a route on every Love drop back while Jayden Reed played 21 snaps and ran a route on 13 of 18 drop backs.

4. Luke Musgrave‘s role is legit.

The rookie TE has been out there with the first team offense consistently this preseason, which aligns with everything we’ve heard out of Packers camp. Musgrave played 27 of 28 snaps with the ones and ran a route on 16 of 18 Love drop backs. Meanwhile fellow rookie Tucker Kraft and veteran Josiah Deguara each only played four snaps with the starters. The hit rate on rookie TEs in fantasy is historically very poor, but Musgrave will have every opportunity to buck the trend.

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5. Chase Brown is currently RB3 or RB4 on the depth chart in Cincinnati.

We know this is Joe Mixon‘s backfield, but the RB2 job has been up for grabs this summer with Samaje Perine in Denver. Trayveon Williams remains banged up with an ankle injury, and as a result, it looks like this is Chris Evans‘ job to lose. Evans got the night off with the rest of the starters while Chase Brown played in Week 3 of the preseason with the rest of the backups. This doesn’t mean that Brown can’t emerge over the course of the season as Mixon’s backup, but as it stands, he’s on the outside looking in for playing time most likely.

6. The Cowboys RB depth chart is more clear.

We know Tony Pollard is RB1, but behind Pollard, there could be value as a late round dart throw given that Zeke vacates 254 total opportunities from a year ago. If Pollard were to get injured, fantasy players need to know who to target in the final rounds of a draft or on the waiver wire. Based on preseason usage, it looks like Rico Dowdle has won the RB2 job while Deuce Vaughn is also a lock to make the roster. Both of these guys sat in the ‘Boys final preseason game while Malik Davis got some run. There’s a decent chance he doesn’t make the final roster.

7. Dameon Pierce‘s bell cow role continues.

Pierce dominated playing time with the first team offense in Week 2 of the preseason and that trend continued in Week 3 against the Saints. The first team only played a couple of drives with C.J. Stroud, but Pierce was out there for every snap with the starters, including an obvious passing situation on 3rd & 7. Pierce was consistently taken off the field last season on passing downs, so this has the potential to unlock a bit more of a fantasy ceiling for Pierce if this trend continues. Assuming Pierce stays healthy, Devin Singletary is nothing more than a change of pace/backup option.

8. Dalton Schultz is part of a TE committee.

With C.J. Stroud playing just nine snaps in Week 3, we don’t have a huge sample size from which to work. That said, Dr. Schultz wasn’t out there as an every down player. He only played four snaps while Teagan Quitoriano and Dalton Keene both played six and five snaps, respectively. We’ll probably see 2TE sets on the field for the Texans frequently this season as they lean on their rushing attack. He has been used more in obvious passing situations, but it’s tough to be a true difference maker at TE if you’re a part time player with a rookie QB. The ceiling doesn’t look like it’s there in 2023.

9. Kyren Williams looks like the Rams RB2.

Williams didn’t play in the final week of the preseason, joining Cam Akers as a healthy scratch with the rest of the starters. In fact, it’s the third consecutive week that Akers and Williams didn’t play. McVay has consistently rested his starters in preseason action since he became the Rams’ head coach, a signal that the top two backs on the depth chart are solidified entering Week 1. Ronnie Rivers, Royce Freeman and Zach Evans have been getting work in the preseason. It’s likely one of those guys gets cut this week.

10. Deonte Harty is the Bills’ starting slot WR.

The Buffalo offense will look a little different this season given that they plan to use both Dawson Knox and 2023 first round pick, Dalton Kincaid. If the preseason is any indication, they’ll use both on the field together frequently, but when they’re in 11 personnel (1 TE, 3 WR), Deonte Harty looks like the guy who will get the first crack at the slot WR role with Diggs and Gabe Davis on the perimeter. Josh Allen played 13 total snaps in Week 3 of the preseason – Harty was out there for nine of those snaps and ran five routes on seven drop backs. It is worth noting that Khalil Shakir was out with a rib injury, but there were reports prior to this game that he had fallen on the depth chart. Shakir is routinely available in Rounds 18-20 on most best ball sites. Mike talked about Harty as his #NastyBoy on our recent episode of the Dynasty Podcast.

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