Fantasy: Takeaways from Thursday's preseason games
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Every game night during the preseason, theScore gets you caught up on the most important fantasy performances from around the league.

Newton leaves with injury

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The third week of exhibition action has long been viewed as the regular-season dress rehearsal. Though many teams now play it safe with their starters, some clubs still want their first-team offense to take the field.

The Panthers might be rethinking that approach after Cam Newton left Thursday's game with what was initially described as a foot injury.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said postgame that Newton was in a walking boot but was unable to provide more information since he had yet to meet with his medical staff.

There were mixed reports on the early diagnosis, with some suggesting it was a sprained foot, according to MMQB's Albert Breer. While sources told ESPN's David Newton the team believes it to be a sprained ankle.

Any type of injury is enough to remove a player from a preseason game, especially one of Newton's status. However, foot ailments can range from a sprain - which could keep Newton out one-to-four weeks - all the way to a dreaded Lisfranc injury, which often sidelines players between six weeks and three months, as outlined by Dr. Selene Parekh of The Fantasy Doctors.

An ankle injury would likely be a relief to everyone in the Panthers' organization, depending on the severity.

An absence of any length would hurt both Newton's fantasy value and the entire Panthers offense, including stars like Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel. McCaffrey's value wouldn't fall much, but Moore and Samuel would drop a tier.

I'm shying away from Newton in fantasy drafts until we get an update on the former MVP's health. The quarterback position is just too deep to take a risk on a fantasy passer who could miss time at the start of the season.

Running back to full health

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It wasn't all bad news Thursday, as a group of running backs who've dealt with injuries of their own in recent seasons gave fantasy managers hope for their 2019 outlooks.

Derrius Guice was forced to sit out his rookie campaign after tearing his ACL a year ago, then went under the knife three additional times to combat infection. An offseason hamstring injury then kept him out longer than expected just as he was nearing full health, making his return to the field Thursday a welcome sight.

While Guice's stiff arm drew the most praise on Twitter, the Redskins rusher had multiple quality runs during his 11-carry, 44-yard performance, including this 12-yard scamper. It was also nice to see Guice haul in a screen pass, but Chris Thompson remained heavily involved on third downs and in the two-minute drill. Guice's upside is evident as Washington's eventual starter, but the presence of both Thompson and Adrian Peterson limit his fantasy ceiling.

Fantasy managers spent a huge chunk of the offseason worrying about Sony Michel's durability and speculating about rookie Damien Harris' role in the Patriots' backfield. Harris was banged up in Thursday's contest and, for the time being, Michel looks as healthy as ever dodging defenders and racing downfield.

Michel's stat line of 10 carries for 36 yards doesn't tell the story, considering he had two long runs - one of which went for 30 yards - called back due to penalties. An inability to convert at the goal line wasn't ideal, but the fact he was being given the ball multiple times in that area of the field is a reminder of the elite touchdown upside of New England's running backs. Michel's injury history is the only thing holding him back from ranking among the top 15 fantasy backs.

Devonta Freeman's ended the last two seasons on injured reserve, so watching him accelerate on the outside for a nine-yard gain was promising, even if that play was nullified by a flag. The veteran finished with nine yards on three touches and has the opportunity for a workhorse season if he can stay off the trainer's table.

Leonard Fournette has made more trips to the medical tent than anyone in this section, so it was a bit surprising to see the Jaguars giving him nine touches in a meaningless preseason game. If you're willing to trust his ability to avoid yet another lower-leg injury, this was a positive outing for your cause.

When he's in the lineup, Fournette will see more than enough volume to make him a fantasy starter, which is exactly what happened Thursday when he rushed seven times for 27 yards and caught two of his three targets for 19 yards. The three targets are proof of the Jags' plan to frequently deploy him as a pass-catcher, which boosts his fantasy stock. However, you can still count me as one of his detractors for all the reasons outlined in my bust candidates article.

Instant Impressions

  • Rookie receiver Miles Boykin continued his strong preseason for the Ravens, hauling in a pass on the boundary and turning it upfield for 44 yards. He got some help from a couple of other rookies on the play, as running back Justice Hill made a nice block to give Trace McSorley time to complete the pass. Hill has had an outstanding August and is going to be an excellent change-of-pace back behind Mark Ingram. You should be trying to get Hill and Boykin on your bench in the late rounds when fantasy draft day arrives.

  • Perhaps we should have seen this J.J. Arcega-Whiteside performance coming after recent reports suggested the Eagles were excited about their rookie wideout and his chances of being a factor in 2019. An eight-catch, 104-yard, one-touchdown game is impressive at any level, even if it's the preseason. JJAW showed solid route running on his 20-yard touchdown and surprised defenders with his speed in picking up 35 yards to convert a fourth down on the next drive. His fantasy value is limited to being a late-round upside pick in a crowded Eagles receiving corps. However, anyone who drafted Arcega-Whiteside in dynasty this season should be just as excited as the Eagles are.
  • Dede Westbrook was the only Jaguar other than Fournette to see a target from Nick Foles on Thursday. Westbrook. Of Foles' 10 attempts, Westbrook was his intended receiver seven times, resulting in four receptions, 29 yards, and a score. Westbrook also survived a massive hit from Minkah Fitzpatrick. The young wideout is quickly becoming Foles' favorite option, which we projected when we named Westbrook as one of our seven players who'll lead you to a fantasy title.
  • D.J. Chark suffered a concussion on Thursday, putting his availability for the opener in doubt. If Chark can’t go, Chris Conley would serve as the No. 2 receiver behind Westbrook, giving him some appeal as a long-shot flex play.
  • A couple of veteran tight ends also exited early with potential concussions Thursday. Jordan Reed's is the most concerning given his extensive injury history, which includes six concussions, according to Sports Injury Predictor, via CBS' Dave Richard. The Patriots are also putting 38-year-old Ben Watson through the concussion protocol. He’ll have extra time to get healthy as he faces a four-game suspension to start the year. The fantasy buzz Reed generated in camp needs to be reconsidered, as his career could be threatened if this turns out to be yet another concussion.

  • Preseason star Jakobi Meyers had another big night in the box score with seven catches and 74 yards, but he struggled during his time with the first-team offense and even drew the ire of Tom Brady. The rookie had a couple miscommunications with his future Hall of Fame quarterback that led to incompletions. Remember the penalties negated Michel's big runs - one of those was on Meyers. The young wideout joked about his tough night after the game and admitted he needs to listen anytime Brady has something to say. With Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon trending up, Meyers could have a hard time carving out regular seasons snaps with the Patriots' offense, despite his lofty preseason totals.
  • Ito Smith has once again emerged as the Falcons' No. 2 back. Brian Hill had a strong offseason and flashed in the early exhibition contests, but he was outplayed by Smith the last two weeks. Hill will now battle Qadree Ollison for Atlanta's third-string gig. Smith will be a touchdown-dependent flex while spelling Freeman and would get the first crack at lead-back duties if Atlanta's starter were to miss time.
  • Wayne Gallman appears to have settled in as Saquon Barkley's backup, beating out Paul Perkins and Rod Smith. Even though Barkley is a worthy choice as the first overall pick in fantasy drafts, his backups could struggle to produce if an injury thrusts them into starter's snaps. Consider Gallman a low-end handcuff.
  • The Daniel Jones era is coming soon, even if the Giants are trying to cling to a fading Eli Manning. The sixth overall pick has completed 83 percent of his passes this preseason and is averaging 12.3 yards per attempt. Turnovers are an issue, as they tend to be with many rookies, but it's clear Jones' star is rising. He's well off the fantasy radar, but his improving play bodes well for the fantasy outlooks of the Giants' skill position players.
  • The most predictable performance of the night came in Miami, where the Dolphins' offensive line could be a problem. Head coach Brian Flores didn't exactly give them a vote of confidence after the game. "There's always time to make changes," he said postgame, according to Safid Deen of the Sun Sentinel. With the regular season kicking off in two weeks, time is running out, and the reasons to draft a member of the Dolphins' offense are disappearing with it. The poor play from the line makes it hard for the coaching staff to evaluate their quarterbacks. After the game, Flores wasn't yet willing to name a Week 1 starter.

  • There might still be hope for sophomore tight end Mike Geisicki, who caught all three of his targets for 59 yards this week. The Penn State alum has all the qualities of a star tight end, but he has a long way to go before making it onto fantasy rosters. Keep him on your watchlist as a potential in-season pickup.
  • If you're wondering why there was no mention of the Packers-Raiders matchup in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that's because field issues led the teams to sit almost every player of note. It also forced the game to be played on a modified 80-yard field. The preseason can't be over soon enough.

Previous takeaways

Fantasy: Takeaways from Thursday's preseason games
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