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Fantasy: Biggest takeaways from Week 3 of NFL preseason


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*If anything noteworthy happens in the Sunday night matchup between the Texans and Saints, we'll add it below.

Steelers' offense continues to shine

After a 2022 campaign in which it appeared coordinator Matt Canada held back the Steelers' offense, we have to acknowledge the significant leap forward this unit has made entering this season.

Improvements to the offensive line and the development of multiple young skill position players are helping the cause - led by Kenny Pickett.

The sophomore quarterback had a nearly flawless preseason. He completed 13 of his 15 pass attempts for 199 yards and two scores over three outings and helped his team find the end zone on all five drives he took the field.

Wideout George Pickens is also making strides toward becoming a more consistent impact player. He was at it again this week with a 35-yard reception, Pickett tossing the ball up and letting his acrobatic receiver do the rest to get the team down to the goal line.

Not to be outdone, Diontae Johnson had a 33-yard grab in the game, bumping his preseason average depth of target up even more - something that would be a boon for his fantasy projections if it continues into September.

The same thing happened for tight end Pat Freiermuth this month, which could be a sign the Steelers will be more aggressive throwing downfield in 2023. Concerns about Freiermuth's usage and playing time are also fading after seeing how Pittsburgh deployed him over the last few weeks.

And in the backfield, Najee Harris' ADP still feels a little high since backup Jaylen Warren seems to have a regular role on passing downs while earning a few more touches on early downs, as Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus broke down.

The result is a much more exciting Steelers' offense, and one fantasy managers should try to acquire.

Instant impressions

Jaguars on the attack - This is your weekly reminder that Trevor Lawrence and the Jags will field an extremely potent offense in 2023. Lawrence looks confident and in command, with Calvin Ridley's arrival likely having a big effect on him. Ridley has racked up 71 yards on five catches over the last two contests and is poised to make a triumphant return to the fantasy world in a few weeks. His presence takes some pressure off Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, and Evan Engram, allowing them to play more suitable roles. Travis Etienne is the unquestioned starter in the backfield, but Tank Bigsby is proving to be a perfect complement (even though the rookie fumbled Saturday). Both backs were very productive on their touches in the preseason finale and should be drafted at or ahead of their current ADPs.

Richardson's rushing on display - Anthony Richardson's comfort in the Colts' passing scheme is still a work in progress, but don't be discouraged by his 35% completion percentage this week. The rookie showcased his poise in the pocket by escaping pass-rushers and making plays with his arm and legs. He had 38 rushing yards on five carries/scrambles, which is the exact thing that'll boost his fantasy floor and provide a sky-high fantasy ceiling when the passing numbers catch up. If Jonathan Taylor leaves via trade, it could mean even more work for Richardson, especially around the goal line. It's something he's used to after scoring nine rushing TDs during his final year in college. He should go off the board as a top-10 quarterback in your drafts.

Committee backfield in Indy? - While we're on the topic of the Colts and the Taylor situation, it's worth mentioning Deon Jackson started this week's game at running back. However, rookie Evan Hull played more snaps with the starting unit, and we can't forget Zack Moss is expected back soon from a broken arm. I like Hull's potential, given his athleticism and pass-catching ability. But if Indy moves Taylor, you should expect the team to get a back in return or sign a veteran free agent. The Colts released Kenyan Drake recently, but Kareem Hunt has worked out for them and reportedly remains in contact. Leonard Fournette is also lurking.

Young's sneaky rushing upside - Bryce Young doesn't have the same kind of rushing ceiling as fellow rookie quarterback Richardson. Still, seeing him collect 21 yards on the ground against the Lions this week was encouraging. If he can tack that onto his stats, he'll finish much higher than I currently have him in my rankings. The more important preseason takeaway for Young is that he continues to look comfortable, even when under fire by the oncoming pass rush. His long-term potential as a pro remains high, and his underrated receiving corps of Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, and D.J. Chark will be fantasy options this season.

Love's sneaky rushing upside? - We could almost copy and paste the previous paragraph since Jordan Love also flashed rushing production this week with the same 21 yards on the ground. The drumbeat around Love has been upbeat this summer, and the collection of young pass-catching talent around him is intriguing. If he can add a little more with his legs than expected, he'll be a high-end QB2 for fantasy.

Moore making life easier for Fields - In case you still need convincing, DJ Moore is an incredible football player who can turn any touch into a house call. The Bears wisely secured his services this offseason in an effort to aid Justin Fields' development. On Saturday, Moore provided more evidence of why he's the right man for that job by catching what should have been a 15-yard pass between four defenders and turning it into a 40-yard gain. Even if you doubt Fields' ability as a passer, the upgraded talent around him will help this offense thrive.

Rodgers on point - We're still down on Aaron Rodgers' fantasy outlook for 2023. However, in his first preseason action with the Jets, he found Garrett Wilson at the side of the end zone for a touchdown that seemed reminiscent of the Rodgers-Davante Adams connection in Green Bay. The future Hall of Famer is about to catapult Wilson to elite fantasy status.

Baker cooking in Tampa - Don't look now, but Baker Mayfield completed all six of his passes for 43 yards and a score this week, putting a bow on a decent preseason for him. Mayfield isn't going to replace Tom Brady. But based on what we've seen, he should be able to keep Chris Godwin and Mike Evans afloat for fantasy. Godwin showed he's ready for a bounce-back campaign by catching four passes for 30 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. With Mike Evans on the sidelines, Trey Palmer continued to stand out with his opportunities. The rookie soared over a defender for a beautiful catch downfield this week and is positioned to have a regular role after Russell Gage's season-ending injury.

Roschon making a move - Khalil Herbert will start the season as the lead back in Chicago, but how long he stays atop the depth chart will depend on whether rookie Roschon Johnson can challenge him. It appears Johnson is already working as a third-down back ahead of D'Onta Foreman. Those who are patient and stash Johnson through the first part of the season could be rewarded with a starting running back down the stretch.

Harris vultures a touchdown - James Cook has been one of the biggest risers since training camp began, but he's also benefitted from Damien Harris being sidelined with a knee injury. Harris made his debut this week, and it didn't take long for him to replace Cook in the red zone and steal a score. While Cook appears locked in as the lead back in Buffalo, Harris' presence could cap the sophomore's TD ceiling and limit his breakout.

Chargers' depth chart becoming clear - For those keeping track at home, Josh Kelley has the edge over Isaiah Spiller for the No. 2 RB job, which isn't overly surprising based on what we saw last year. But Josh Palmer ahead of first-round rookie Quentin Johnston in the receiving corps - at least to start the year - might be slightly more eyebrow-raising. Johnston's talent should win out once he's more comfortable in the offense, but he belongs on your bench until he begins to ascend. That's good news for fantasy managers with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.

Don't sleep on Musgrave - Despite being overshadowed by some of the other big names in his rookie tight end class, Luke Musgrave is already the clear starter in Green Bay. As for the other fantasy-relevant rookies, Sam LaPorta rested with the Lions' starters - a sign of where he stands already in their offense. Dalton Kincaid isn't playing full-time snaps yet, but the first-rounder is running a ton of routes and will be used like a receiver often, elevating his fantasy outlook. Don't be afraid to draft rookie tight ends in the late rounds this year.

Patriots trade Strong to Browns - The Patriots cleared up their clogged backfield by sending Pierre Strong to Cleveland, where he'll compete for the No. 2 job behind Nick Chubb. A hamstring injury has kept Jerome Ford out most of the month, and his availability for Week 1 is unknown. Strong will likely settle in as a depth piece behind Chubb and Ford when everyone is healthy.

Other preseason standouts who caught my eye this week - 49ers RB Jordan Mason, 49ers RB Tyrion Davis-Price, Dolphins RB Salvon Ahmed, Broncos QB Jarrett Stidham, Commanders TE Cole Turner, Seahawks RB DeeJay Dallas, Raiders WR Kristian Wilkerson, Cowboys QB Will Grier, Cowboys WR Tyron Johnson, Broncos TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Ravens TE Charlie Kolar, Chiefs RB La'Mical Perine

Deeper rookie standouts who caught my eye this week - Bengals WR Andrei Iosivas, Commanders RB Chris Rodriguez, Chargers RB Elijah Dotson, Browns QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Raiders QB Aidan O'Connell, Buccaneers WR Rakim Jarrett, Giants RB Eric Gray, Cowboys RB Hunter Luepke, Seahawks WR Jake Bobo

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