Don’t be that knucklehead who shouts loudly, “The Preseason is meaningless!!!” Every August, surprises crop up during exhibition play providing meaningful insight into a player’s true fantasy flame or lame potential. Below are my thoughts and observations from Week 3.
Texans-Cowboys: Lamar Miller’s season over
Miller’s unnerving knee bend and resulting cart exit puts the onus on the Houston front office. After emphatically stating earlier this month they had no interest pursuing disgruntled Chargers holdout Melvin Gordon, one has to wonder with Miller suffering a season-ending injury if that changes the temperature.
Duke Johnson will see an uptick in PT, but is best suited as a 10-12 touch per game change-of-pace option. Rookie Damarea Crockett is a possible crutch. BOB and company could also acquire a veteran back post cuts. Feel free to toss a line to Crockett in deeper leagues, but understand this situation is very fluid.
Michael Gallup’s August added another sensational highlight. Coming back to the ball after Dak Prescott escaped from the pocket, the sophomore WR hauled in a 13-yard TD against Houston. Amari Cooper is the unquestioned top option in Big D, but his tender heel and general inconsistencies could lead Dak to focus more attention on Gallup. Blessed with terrific ball-adjustment, leaping and separation skills, he was one of my favorite prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Cheap in drafts (123.9, WR53), the young receiver’s stock is climbing.
Cardinals-Vikings: Kyler Murray take step
The hullabaloo over Murray’s sudden and dramatic downturn last week was, naturally, overblown. Welcome to the overreaction season. Facing Minnesota’s first-string defense, he impressively completed 14-of-21 passes for 137 yards. On three occasions, he tossed impeccable tight-window passes. The best was a 33-yard over-the-shoulder dime to Damiere Byrd. This is what he can achieve with proper protection. Expect fireworks Week 1 against Detroit.
Fellow first-year Cardinal, KeeSean Johnson, added another splash of Tabasco on what’s been a spicy August. Targeted eight times he snared seven passes for 85 yards. Long, strong and smooth in his routes, the greenhorn is worth a late-round stash. All signs point to him opening as the club’s No. 3. Understand this is a team likely to chuck it 60-65 percent of the time.
Dalvin Cook’s 82-yard touchdown outburst might be the first of many spectacular plays in Gary Kubiak’s zone system. The rusher is flawlessly constructed to thrive in it. His vision, power and assertive cuts should generate abundant chunk plays. Stay healthy and he’ll race to a 1,500 total yard, 10-plus TD season. He has no business falling anywhere beyond No. 20 overall.
Washington-Falcons: Derrius Guice solid in return
For much of the offseason, fantasy investors, yours truly included, believed Guice was broken, a discarded young running back with an irreparable knee. However, in his first preseason action, he resembled the assertive downhill plow who once terrorized SEC defenses. Sonic the Hedgehog in nature, he was impressive between the tackles and aggressive on the edge. His stiff-arm on an eight-yard outside run, the first of the game, was something bourbon-fueled LSU Tigers fans recognized. On the evening, he accumulated 48 yards on 12 touches, generating appreciable yards after contact, a calling card.
Off multiple surgeries, Guice experienced a seminal moment in his recovery. Still, with financially destitute Adrian Peterson, who outwardly and ridiculously is aiming for 2,000 yards at age-Dracula, and the always underrated Chris Thompson involved, it was only a confidence-building moment.
The young rusher’s initial efforts operating with the Redskins first team are encouraging, but streaking the quad over him isn’t recommended. Washington’s o-line, without the services of tackle Trent Williams, remains an enormous question mark. The crowded backfield and potential for negative game scripts (WAS over/under is six wins, per DraftKings sportsbook) are also deterrents.
Given his excellent vision, brutalizing power, versatility and renewed vigor, Guice is an interesting and affordable mid-draft target (76.5 ADP, RB34). Expectations, though, need to be tempered. If the fantasy gods align, he could achieve 1,100 combined yards and 5-7 touchdowns, which is probably a stretch.
Dolphins-Jaguars: Kalen Ballage fails to impress
In Florida, Ballage (106.1 ADP, RB42) looked like a player running in quicksand, beer keg strapped to his back. His nonexistent elusiveness was clearly on display. Seeing action over the entire first half against the Jags, he managed an abysmal 15 total yards on 14 touches. Laughably stiff (No. 86 out of 86 in broken tackle percentage in ‘18) and equipped with poor vision, he’s an ill fit on a Miami team with a basement-dwelling offensive line. Kenyan Drake (72.2 ADP, RB31), who forced a missed tackle 23.3 percent of the time last year, is the better Dolphins back and fantasy target. Land him at the injury discount.
In rhythm with Nick Foles against Miami, Dede Westbrook caught 4-of-6 targets for 24 yards and a TD. A slick route runner with a clear path to a sizable target share, he’s an undervalued option available in the middle rounds (87.6 ADP, WR37). It shouldn’t shock anyone if he finishes in range of 70-80 receptions, 900-950 yards and 5-7 TDs.
Panthers-Patriots: Cam Newton banged up
Before exiting stage left with a sprained left foot, Newton completed 4-of-6 passes for 30 yards. Woefully protected during his brief appearance, the QB isn’t expected to miss the Week 1 opener against the visiting Rams. Multidimensional rookie, Will Grier, would be a hot waiver addition if Cam were sidelined at any point this season. Store away the name.
Are we overlooking Phillip Dorsett (277.7 ADP, WR110)? Overshadowed by preseason dynamo Jakobi Meyers, the quick-footed wide receiver hauled in all seven targets for 47 yards working with the ones and twos. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and James White will surely be Tom Brady’s favorite targets, but likely to start outside, Dorsett will certainly have his moments. WR33 in fantasy points per target last year, he’s worth the late-round stash in 12-team and deeper leagues.