Fantasy: Biggest takeaways from Week 3 of NFL preseason
Brian Robinson shot multiple times
We'll get to the biggest takeaways from the final week of preseason games in a moment, but it's impossible not to first discuss the situation of rookie running back Brian Robinson.
The Washington Commanders third-rounder is in stable condition after being shot multiple times during an attempted robbery. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that at least two bullets struck Robinson in the lower body.
This all comes after a strong training camp and preseason that saw the 23-year-old back rise up Washington's depth chart. We were likely heading toward a committee approach with Robinson, Antonio Gibson, and J.D. McKissic all getting touches, but the rookie had positioned himself to be the lead back and arguably the most valuable fantasy option of the bunch.
The 23-year-old will now focus on his recovery, and we wish him all the best as he works his way back to full health. We've yet to get a timeline on how long that could take, so we'll wait for more information before projecting when he might return.
While Robinson's sidelined, Gibson will likely step back into the starting role with McKissic handling the bulk of the passing-down work. This might also lead to Washington keeping one of the ball carriers who was on the roster bubble, like Jonathan Williams or Jaret Patterson.
Either way, the important thing is Robinson survived.
Instant impressions from preseason Week 3
Target Elijah Mitchell in drafts - There've been conflicting reports about San Francisco's backfield depth chart, and the final preseason outing didn't solve things. With their offensive line struggling, none of the 49ers' backup running backs made a strong case to steal work from Mitchell, who averaged the 19th-most fantasy points among RBs in 2021. Mitchell has returned to practice after missing time with a hamstring injury and should be ready to roll for Week 1. You can get him right now in the sixth round as the 23rd back off the board. A healthy Jeff Wilson seems like the favorite for the No. 2 role, and third-rounder Ty Davis-Price should be a lock for the roster. It's hard to tell whether the praise general manager John Lynch heaped on Trey Sermon was a sign of his future with the team or an attempt to generate a trade market.
Montgomery still the man - Despite plenty of offseason speculation that the Bears would deploy more of a committee this season, incumbent starter David Montgomery played 20 of 22 snaps with the starting offense, according to Nathan Jahnke of PFF. Backup Khalil Herbert showed last year he can be an immediate fantasy starter when Montgomery misses time, but Herbert might not have as much flex value as we thought when the new coaching staff took over.
Take shots on Chiefs RBs at ADP - Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a hold on the starting job in Kansas City entering his third NFL campaign, with veteran Jerick McKinnon set to contribute as a third-down option. Seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco and veteran Ronald Jones went toe-to-toe this week for the No. 3 job and both performed well, with Pacheco racking up 52 yards from scrimmage on 10 attempts and Jones 47 yards and a score on nine touches. While some have suggested RoJo might get cut, it's possible the team carries four backs into the season. If Jones does get cut, he won't have trouble finding a new home.
Ty Montgomery's injury could unlock Stevenson - Though Bill Belichick suggested Montgomery might be able to practice this week after he was carted off with an ankle injury, we've learned not to trust the coach's optimism. If Montgomery misses time early in the year, it'll go a long way toward helping Rhamondre Stevenson's fantasy value since he'll pick up some of the passing-down snaps. Damien Harris remains the starter, but his upside is limited by a lack of a pass-catching role. It took 15 touchdowns last season for Harris to finish as the RB15 in fppg. Banking on a repeat performance in that category is risky, especially with Stevenson pushing for more work. Stevenson has the higher fantasy ceiling, but it'll likely take a Harris injury for him to reach it.
Draft Dameon Pierce within reason - The fantasy community is falling over themselves to select Pierce in drafts. The fourth-rounder's ADP has risen 16 spots over the last week into the seventh round. It certainly helped that he looked explosive again while delivering a 6-37-1 stat line in the last action before the regular season. The Texans' offensive line is also coming together to propel the rushing attack. However, let's remember what we cautioned about last week - Houston faces the fourth-toughest fantasy schedule for running backs in 2022. Pierce will also give up passing-down work to Rex Burkhead and Marlon Mack, which could happen often on a team with a projected win total of 4.5 games. The rookie deserves to be among the top-30 fantasy backs drafted, but his ceiling could be capped this year.
Breece Hall making a move - Despite some people overreacting to Michael Carter playing as the Jets' No. 1 running back the last couple of games, Carter and Hall split time with the first-team offense this past week. Looking ahead, Carter should remain a big part of the Jets' game plan early in the year as they get Hall up to speed on all aspects of their playbook. But make no mistake, Hall will be the better fantasy option in 2022 and beyond. He's one of the few dead-zone RBs you should be willing to roll the dice on.
Chase Romeo Doubs' upside - The Packers' fourth-round rookie wideout has positioned himself to be a factor this year after a strong camp and preseason. Though Allen Lazard remains the No. 1 receiver in Green Bay, Doubs will push veterans Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb for targets. Second-round rookie Christian Watson was a raw prospect to begin with, and injuries have set back his acclimation to the pros. He's unlikely to command a significant volume early in the season, or perhaps at all.
Justin Fields is legit - Even with a bad offensive line and an incomplete arsenal of weapons, Fields is showing he has the talent to lift this offense on his own. The sophomore passer completed 14 of 16 attempts this week for 156 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 11 yards on the ground. He's worth a flier as a late-round fantasy target.
Don't sleep on Jameis Winston - It's been a quiet August for Winston due to a foot injury that kept him sidelined for the last couple of weeks. But he returned for the final preseason contest and was nearly perfect, leading the Saints to a touchdown on his lone drive by completing all four of his attempts for 59 yards. With the ample weapons in New Orleans this year, Winston could be a sneaky fantasy option.
Mostert healthy ... for now - We had concerns the oft-injured Raheem Mostert might not be ready for Week 1, but he appeared to be 100% when he hit the afterburners on this 26-yard run. Starter Chase Edmonds wasn't playing, so Mostert saw most of the snaps with the first-team offense. While Edmonds will still see the most touches, Mostert could provide a dangerous change of pace for however long he can stay off the trainer's table.
Kelley is the Chargers' backup RB to roster - Larry Rountree got the start this week with Austin Ekeler held out and Isaiah Spiller nursing an ankle injury. However, Rountree was outplayed again by Joshua Kelley, who's running as well as he ever has in the NFL. He rushed six times for 40 yards in the third preseason game, and he hurdled a defender during this 15-yard run. For now, Kelley is the backup rusher to roster on the Chargers. He should see some work spelling Ekeler while playing in a potent attack behind a quality offensive line.
Geno Smith beats out Drew Lock in Seattle - There were no winners in the Seahawks' quarterback competition. Smith got the nod after Lock imploded with three interceptions this past week. The result is what we've been expecting for a while - an offense that'll be severely limited by its quarterback play. That doesn't mean you should shy away from the Seahawks' skill position players entirely, but don't draft them unless you're getting a discount.
Avoid Mike Gesicki and Noah Fant - Both tight ends would normally offer extreme fantasy upside in the right passing attack, but if the preseason was any indication, they could see their workloads reduced this season. Fant has been splitting time with Will Dissly, and Gesicki has been outsnapped by Durham Smythe. The Dolphins and Seahawks also have two quality receivers on each of their rosters who'll command plenty of targets, pushing their tight ends down the pecking order. There are better late-round fantasy tight ends to invest in.
Jakobi Meyers dinged up - With rookie Tyquan Thornton already slated to miss around two months due to injury, it'll be even more important to monitor Meyers' status after he spent time in the blue medical tent during Week 3's game. There's been no indication the injury is anything serious, but keep an eye out for updates. Meyers and DeVante Parker are the only Patriots receivers worth investing in for redraft leagues.
Treylon Burks' time is coming - The first-rounder still needs to earn the trust of his coaches after it was suggested that he showed up to camp out of shape and subsequently missed practice time. But Burks is on the rise up the depth chart after a three-catch, 33-yard, one-touchdown performance in the final preseason contest. He's still behind Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and rookie slot receiver Kyle Philips, but Burks will be a factor sooner rather than later. It just might take a few weeks into the season before he spreads his wings.
Malik Willis has potential - Despite falling in the draft and posting a couple of uneven performances in his previous preseason outings, Willis started to look more comfortable this past week. He completed 15 of 23 attempts for 131 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. More importantly for fantasy, he rushed for 79 yards, including a beautiful 50-yard scramble. When his opportunity comes - which might not be this year unless Ryan Tannehill gets hurt - fantasy managers need to be ready.
Desmond Ridder will get his chance - Marcus Mariota is the unquestioned starter heading into Week 1, but Ridder has shown enough to warrant an opportunity at some point. Don't worry about the two interceptions the rookie threw this past week - the more important takeaway has been his overall command of the offense and willingness to push the ball downfield. Once the Falcons are out of the playoff hunt, expect Ridder to get starts down the stretch.
Monitor the Browns' RBs on cutdown day - D'Ernest Johnson played in this past week's game, while Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Jerome Ford did not. It's hard to speculate what that means. The reality is anything is on the table. Hunt has been rumoured to be a trade candidate, and Johnson could be traded or on the roster bubble. Either way, these are all backs that are intriguing for fantasy, so be ready to react when the team makes a move one way or another.
Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams share snaps - Sadly, we didn't get any separation in the competition to be James Conner's immediate backup. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Both players were involved with the starting offense this past week. Benjamin is still the favorite to get work behind Conner, but if Conner went down with an injury, it'd likely result in a timeshare between Benjamin and Williams. That's assuming Williams isn’t a surprise cut, which was thrown out there by Doug Kyed of PFF.
Falcons' backup RB battle - We should get more info on the Falcons' running back depth chart after cutdown day. For now, it's clear that Cordarrelle Patterson is leading the way with Damien Williams behind him. Both veterans sat out the Week 3 game, while rookie Tyler Allgeier got the start. You can expect the fifth-rounder grinder to earn more snaps/touches as the year goes on, but Williams will have more value early in the season.
Mike Davis might have fantasy value - Here we go again. After the 29-year-old back failed to deliver with his opportunity in Atlanta last year, he's found himself in another situation that could result in volume. The Ravens placed Gus Edwards on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll miss at least the first four games. J.K. Dobbins, who's also coming back from a torn ACL, is no lock to be available for Week 1, either. That could lead to a lot of touches for Davis in the opening weeks. If his preseason usage is any indication, Davis is the clear No. 3 on the depth chart in Baltimore's backfield. And before you dismiss it, just remember a 29-year-old Devonta Freeman had several quality fantasy outings as the Ravens' starter last year.
Take a late-round flier on Parris Campbell - Yes, we've seen this story before, and it always ends with Campbell on injured reserve. But the 25-year-old is entering the season healthy and is settled in as the Colts' No. 2 wideout. Campbell got work ahead of rookie teammate Alec Pierce in two-receiver sets this week, and his connection with Matt Ryan has been well-documented throughout the offseason and training camp. Campbell still remains a long shot to become a consistent fantasy starter, but his talent has never been in question.
Other preseason standouts who caught my eye this week - Commanders QB Sam Howell, Dolphins QB Skylar Thompson, Saints RB Mark Ingram, Vikings RB Ty Chandler, Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram, Broncos RB Mike Boone, Seahawks RB DeeJay Dallas, Patriots, RB Kevin Harris, Rams WR Lance McCutcheon, Panthers WR Shi Smith, Ravens WR Demarcus Robinson, Packers WR Samori Toure.