NFL preseason Week 3 provided a few glimpses of promising youth and reminded us which players are still fantasy football bosses. Unfortunately, all of the good was overshadowed by the story of the week: Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) tearing an ACL in a totally meaningless contest.
As we collectively lament the decision to play Dobbins, let’s take an optimistic stance and review the good things for fantasy footballers to celebrate.
QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: A week after looking unlike himself, Mahomes was surgical vs. the Minnesota Vikings. He found Tyreek Hill on an exceptional 35-yard touchdown along right the sideline, a ball Mahomes nearly overthrew if not for Hill having a transmission that would make a European supercar envious. Mahomes tossed another score and finished 8-for-9, 117 yards, the two scores, and a perfect passer rating. The point being, he’s already in midseason form.
Star fantasy quarterbacks: Speaking of midseason form, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Buffalo’s Josh Allen warrant mentions, too. The oldest quarterback in the game ended his night 11-for-14, throwing a TD to go along with 154 yards. Allen was good for 194 yards and a pair of scoring strikes on 20 of 26 attempts. While one can say it’s beyond reckless to start these guys in the preseason (and it is), thankfully the both escaped unscathed and showed they’re ready to pick up where each left off in 2020.
WR Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills: The second-year receiver acted as the No. 1 with Stefon Diggs (knee) out of the game, corralling all five of his Allen-thrown targets. The highlight of his day was a 31-yard connection as he crossed the goal line. While Diggs is expected to be fine for Week 1, there still is much to like about Davis after a seven-touchdown rookie season in this high-scoring offense.
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks: Fantasy football owners are used to seeing running back rotations making for frustrating lineup decisions. San Fran head coach Kyle Shanahan employed this madness at quarterback between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance against the Las Vegas Raiders. It took five offensive plays before we saw the rookie enter the game, and the two would be interchanged during the first several series. Garoppolo scored a rushing touchdown, and Lance followed the former New England Patriot’s lead with one of his own later in the first half. Neither Garoppolo (4/7, 64-0-0) nor Lance (6/13, 46-0-0) impressed through the air, however. Get ready for what could be an unpredictable situation!
RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: The workload was slim this weekend for Stevenson, yet he managed to find the end zone yet again, bringing the three-game preseason total to five scores. Despite the small sample size in Week 3, he mustered 4.8 yards per carry on five totes, adding a pair of grabs for 17 yards. No more Sony Michel illustrates the confidence Stevenson’s strong play has inspired.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars: Even without his top pair of receivers, the No. 1 overall pick reinforced why he is a generational talent. Lawrence pitched an 11-for-12 game with 139 yards and a couple of scores vs. the Dallas Cowboys, including a well-timed corner route to Laviska Shenault Jr. Lawrence will force his way into fantasy lineups this year.
QB Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers: One game in the preseason shouldn’t be overvalued, of course, though it’s nice to see Darnold looking comfortable and in control. He finished 19 of 25 for 162 yards and two touchdown throws. He found former New York Jets target Robby Anderson (2-15-1) and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. (3-43-1), an LSU product who has looked the part of a future fantasy starter thus far. At any rate, Darnold didn’t all of a sudden become a coveted selection in conventional settings, but his play should inspire confidence in adding Anderson, D.J. Moore (6-48-0), and even Marshall in deeper formats.
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New England Patriots quarterbacks: Mac Jones continues to look poised and is primed for a strong NFL career. He threw for 156 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 14 passing, avoiding a turnover in the contest. Cam Newton hardly saw any action during Week 3, but the little bit he played was far from pretty stats-wise: 2-for-5, 10 yards, and an interception, which wasn’t his fault. The turnover aside, it is increasingly difficult to envision Newton being able to hold off the surging first-rounder this year.
RB Javian Hawkins, Tennessee Titans: One of my favorite deep sleepers prior to being an unexpected cut by the Atlanta Falcons, Hawkins was claimed off waivers by the Titans and thrust into action with almost no time to get more than a few pages into the playbook. It should be pointed out that the Titans run a similar offense as to what Hawkins was learning in Atlanta under last year’s Tennessee OC. This obviously is the Derrick Henry Show, but Hawkins could have just played himself onto the roster and into fantasy lineups — if something were to take Henry off the field for long. Keep tabs on whether Hawkins survives Tuesday’s cuts.
RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles: The rookie made his mark on the ground and through the sky in this one. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry on five totes, putting one of them into the end zone. As a receiver, Gainwell added 27 of his 59 total yards, securing all four of his targets. RB Boston Scott (2-49-1) also showed well in the passing game, so it will be fun to see how this plays out in the regular season. Gainwell is much better as a true rusher, although he is buried on the unofficial depth chart. Maybe Tuesday’s cut day will bring a surprise that moves him up the pecking order. If nothing else, consider it a pleasant look into the future for dynasty leagues.
WR Quintez Cephus, Detroit Lions: A second-year receiver, Cephus flashed a tiny bit in 2020. He currently is listed as a second-stringer on the unofficial depth chart, ahead of rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is going well ahead of Cephus in fantasy drafts. Although St. Brown should have a larger role in the regular season, Cephus landed three balls for 35 yards and a score with starting QB Jared Goff watching from the sideline. Cephus could work his way into relevance given that Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are atop the depth chart. Stash Cephus in your memory bank as a possible wavier target.
Update: Perriman was cut Monday, Aug. 30, which makes Cephus all the more appealing. He’s now a late-round flier.
RB JaMycal Hasty, San Francisco 49ers: The backfield is jam-packed, which means it’s no lock Hasty even is on the final roster. His inclusion here stems from a 6-55-2 line that came against reserves. He has sparkled a number of times now this preseason. Hasty doesn’t have any draftable value, although he could be one of those guys who winds up on rosters late in the year if injuries grant him a path to playing time.