Week 3 of the preseason is the closest we get to the regular thing during the meaningless appetizer session. The top performances are highlighted below, but we first must provide the obligatory reminder: It’s still the preseason. Teams use vanilla schemes and rarely play at full bore. Go easy on the knee-jerk draft reactions if you have yet to choose a squad.
New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty erupted against the New York Giants, going for 250 yards and three touchdown strikes on 15-for-18 passing. He suffered a minor knee sprain and is week to week. The reason he isn’t getting a numbered writeup is two-fold: The Jets have no fantasy receivers of consequence, and Petty had been impressively bad prior to this game.
If Dak Prescott wasn’t firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback in Dallas, Cooper Rush would be all the rage. He has an “it” factor that few bring to the table.
On to the performances that matter …
10) WR Mack Hollins, Philadelphia Eagles: A 5-44-0 line is hardly anything to write home about, although it could provide a glimpse into an expanding role for Hollins. The 6-foot-4 rookie provides a weapon in the red zone for Carson Wentz, and the trade of Jordan Matthews puts Hollins one step closer to seeing the field. Don’t draft him, but remember the name for the waiver wire if he takes off early in the season or finds more playing time by way of an Alshon Jeffery injury.
9) WR Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers: One catch, 46 yards, a touchdown. This is exactly why Kyle Shanahan wanted Goodwin on the 49ers’ roster. The former Buffalo Bill is a big play waiting to happen, and he nicely complements the modest gains of Pierre Garcon’s intermediate game. Goodwin will function as Taylor Gabriel did last year in Atlanta. He will be frustrating to play, but with the right matchup, Goodwin makes for a fine flex in standard scoring. He is best served in best-ball leagues or DFS action.
8) WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Oakland Raiders: A four-reception, 30-yard, one-TD performance may not catch one’s eye at first glance. It warrants inclusion because Patterson has consistently impressed over the offseason after a failed career in Minnesota. Sometimes all it takes is a new setting for players to turn it around. We know he has the athleticism, and now he has a potentially elite quarterback in a strong passing game with no pressure on him to succeed. Patterson will benefit from the attention paid to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Looking for a late-round dice roll? CP isn’t a bad gamble.
7) QB Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers: In his second stint with Kyle Shanahan, Hoyer enters the regular season having a full grasp of the offensive complexities that required a full year for Matt Ryan to master. Hoyer is nowhere near Ryan in talent level or physical ability, yet he can offer moderate reward for fantasy purposes as a bargain-priced backup. Against Minnesota, the journeyman went 12-for-17 for 176 yards and two touchdown tosses. San Francisco’s passing game lacks eye-popping talent, but there is enough meat on the bone for Hoyer to offer fantasy utility at times.
6) WR Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions: Jones started last year with a bang and petered out as the year progressed. He presents an intriguing depth option, especially with loss of Anquan Boldin from the offense. Rookie Kenny Golladay caught two TDs in his preseason debut but has just two total catches for seven yards since. In that time, Jones has quietly scored in consecutive contests on eight combined grabs. Think of Jones as an ascending flex weapon.
5) QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: After being benched for veteran Chad Henne entering this contest, Bortles used his opportunity to make a final push to retain his starting gig. He finished this preseason action with 12-for-16 passing, 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It wasn’t special, but the performance was good enough to beat Henne’s paltry 8-for-13 for 73 yards. Bortles makes for a risky backup in fantasy.
4) WR John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: So much for that quad strain! Brown, one of my preferred sleeper targets until recently, still has a hint of breakout ability. Health may be a major problem if his sickle-cell trait hinders recovery from what are otherwise minor ailments. A pair of touchdowns on as many catches should get Brown back in the fantasy limelight right before the core draft flurry. He’s a flex receiver with tremendous potential and nearly equal downside.
3) RB Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins: Adam Gase’s offense is likely to lean on the powerback more than it would have with Ryan Tannehill at the helm. Jay Cutler is returning from shoulder surgery and is on the wrong side of 30, so taking it easy on him, at least early on, can be expected. Ajayi showed his ability to explode in three 200-yard games a season ago. His 9-53-2 line illustrates why he is a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts and should help ease some concerns.
2) WR Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers: For the second time in three preseason games, KB has found the end zone. The Panthers have no other receiving weapons who offer as much of a presence in the red zone. As we’ve previously discussed in this space, he has trimmed down drastically and is two years removed from a torn ACL. Expect huge numbers in 2017 from this WR2 with a No. 3 price tag. The bonus: Cam Newton looked A-OK in his extremely brief preseason debut.
1) WR Chris Hogan, New England Patriots: The stunning loss of Julian Edelman for the year overshadowed Hogan’s masterful Week 3 outing. He snagged four balls for 70 yards and scored twice, including one from 32 yards out. The Pats will increase his involvement without Edelman, and there is a good chance Hogan went undrafted if your league has already filled out rosters. Hogan vaults from relative obscurity to WR3 (or better) status. He’ll also see a lot more defensive attention, however.