The third preseason game is generally considered the bellwether for evaluating talent entering the regular season. This year, it felt more like a teaser than a full-length preview. Several teams didn’t even bother dressing key starters, or played them nominally. This glorified dress rehearsal lacked the oomph of years past via lackluster performances. If anything, we may have learned more about underperforming players than standouts.
10) QB Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills: Head coach Sean McDermott has yet to name a Week 1 starter, and the third game may have left him with more questions than answers. Last year, Peterman was the butt of many jokes following his woeful starting debut against the Los Angeles Chargers. He was touted as one of the more polished passers entering the 2017 draft, so it is premature to completely write him off. Peterman has no immediate fantasy value, despite a 200-yard, 2-TD performance — a stark contrast to Josh Allen’s 6-for-12, 34-yard, 5-sack effort. McDermott must start the most ready option, and that is not Allen. The Bills offer almost no fantasy value across the skill positions, making the outcome of this situation mostly irrelevant.
9) QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: The Louisville standout’s electricity is evident to anyone watching. Jackson, like most run-first quarterbacks, will struggle to identify nuanced defensive schemes and make plenty of mistakes. However, his legs change the game for defenders. He’s listed this high because of the “what if” of one of two scenarios: 1) Joe Flacco gets hurt, or 2) John Harbaugh is backed into a corner in what should be a hot-seat year. If given the chance, Jackson absolutely contribute to fantasy lineups in 2018. It may not always be pretty, yet he has legitimate worth. The problem will be waiting to see it materialize. Draft-and-stash will take up a valuable roster spot for who knows how long, whereas the waivers game leaves no guarantee he is on your roster. Reserve him for best-ball draft selections at this point.
8) WR Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints: The dynamic rookie finished with a 4-39-1 line against the Chargers, hauling in a 5-yard score from Taysom Hill. The Saints have several receivers whom will be rotated into the offense behind Michael Thomas in the pecking order. Sean Payton will script space plays for Smith, which can result in situations with inconsistent receiving averages. Smith should deliver inconsistent performances but has late-round appeal in deep leagues. He’s best suited for best-ball formats.
7) RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers: Should Melvin Gordon succumb to an injury, which surely wouldn’t be unheard of, Ekeler’s role will increase in a dramatic fashion. That is not to say he will be given the ball anywhere near the level of Gordon’s workload, though. Someone else will be worked into the mix. Even with a healthy Gordon on the field, Ekeler certainly could serve a fantasy-worthy role in the passing game. His nine touches for 63 yards illustrate an ability to chip in meaningful work via limited handles.
6) Cincinnati Bengals passing offense: Andy Dalton finished 11-for-16, 180 yards, 2 TDs. The scoring strikes went to John Ross (2-66-1) and, of course, A.J. Green (4-50-1). Tyler Boyd jumped into the mix and snagged four balls that traversed 54 yards worth of the field. After Brandon LaFell’s release, gamers gravitated to the former first-rounder in Ross, while Boyd saw only a minute bump in his stock. Both players could be useful, at times, in 2018. Dalton is a risky QB2 but has looked sharp this preseason and deserves consideration for quarterbacks looking to rotate passers out of this year’s deep class.
5) RB Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers: Morris thrived under Kyle Shanahan in Washington years gone by. Injuries to, well, just about everyone in the San Fran backfield could make Morris the lead back in the early going of 2018. He didn’t disappoint in Week 3, rushing a hearty 17 times for 84 yards (4.9 per carry). His two best seasons (2012 and ’13) came in Shanny’s system, and the well-traveled veteran enters his age-30 season with limited mileage in the past three years. Jerick McKinnon (calf) had been the cat’s meow before suffering an injury, but he was overvalued. Could he have lost out on an opportunity for a lead role to Morris for no reason other than an ill-timed injury? You better believe it. Shanahan easily could have changed his mind and come to the realization McKinnon is merely a part-time player, which he has been his entire career. Own Morris, devalue McKinnon, and make sure to play the matchups.
4) RB Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins: He’s back … ish. We saw this last year in Arizona, on more than one occasion … an explosive performance followed by a dud. In the 33-year-old’s bid to win the starting job in Washington, he toted the rock 11 times for 56 yards against the Denver Broncos. His 5.1 yards-per-carry average dwarfed the paltry attempt by his top competitor, Rob Kelley. He finished with 19 yards on eight attempts, averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Peterson’s modest effort goes a long way in his desire to prove he isn’t totally useless and secure the starting gig.
3) QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: Mahomes returns to the list this week after another strong showing. He shrugged off an unimpressive first preseason showing to deliver on the hype in consecutive appearances. And it’s beyond obvious he loves himself some Tyreek Hill. Don’t forget the other options at his disposal in Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins. Mahomes should be this year’s breakout passer in an offense that, at its core, loves to wing the ball around the field.
2) RB Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos: The rookie rumbled his way for a 24-yard touchdown after putting on his big-boy pants. To be fair, his other four carries went for a whopping two yards. There will be some of that in 2018. But there also will be enough of those long jaunts to offset the tough sledding. Backed by the offensive stability of an improved line and quarterback, as well as a defense that should provide him chances to control the clock, Freeman is easily the second-best rookie running back for 2018 fantasy purposes.
1) QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Not only will owners get a top-flight fantasy quarterback, the extenuating effects on the entire offense cannot be understated. T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) returns to being a weekly threat, Ryan Grant has a chance to emerge, the running game is fortified by Luck’s arm, and two tight ends have relevance. Luck’s Week 3 showing against the Niners offered a little bit of everything. He completed 80 percent of his throws on 8-for-10 passing, racking up 90 yards and a score to newcomer Eric Ebron. Luck even added 27 rushing yards on four carries, helping show off his mobility. Injury remains a concern, but he is back and ready to lead fantasy teams as a midrange QB1.