While the final scores of NFL preseason games are meaningless, the performances of the players and resulting fantasy impact is anything but. That's why the Week 3 "dress rehearsal" is an important one to watch as fantasy drafts reach their fever pitch. Often times, we can glean information on final depth charts, sleepers, and breakout candidates from these contests. How coaches divvy touches and playing time can be a hint of things to come once the games matter. This doesn't always hold true, but when it comes to prepping for fantasy drafts any potential edge over an opponent is worth investigating. Below, Matt Francsicovich and Alex Gelhar walk you through their fantasy takeaways from all 16 preseason games from the past weekend.
Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles
Dolphins: The Jay Cutler/DeVante Parker connection remained strong on Thursday as the duo hooked up for an early 72-yard connection down the sideline. Cutler seems to favor the bigger Parker over Jarvis Landry, who might see a down-tick in targets considering the way this preseason has gone. Parker's ADP has jumped a full two rounds over the last week or so, and he could see significant volume in the Dolphins passing game with Cutler under center. Jay Ajayi also ran well and punched in two scores, looking like he's ready to ball out. Personally, I have Ajayi ranked as my RB3 behind Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson for fantasy purposes.
Eagles: The Philadelphia backfield has been difficult to decipher with inconsistency throughout the preseason. LeGarrette Blount seems like he's having a hard time fitting into the offense. Second-year back Wendell Smallwood split first team reps with Blount, and we can't forget about Darren Sproles. Be wary of this unpredictable situation during your draft. In the passing game, Alshon Jeffery seems like Carson Wentz's go-to in and around the end zone as the duo hooked up for their second score of the preseason. Meanwhile, Wentz also hit Torrey Smith on a 50-yard touchdown bomb. Just Torrey Smith doing Torrey Smith things. His consistency as a fantasy asset likely won't be reliable so he's nothing more than a late-round flier.
-- Matt Franciscovich
Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Panthers:Cam Newton returned for his first action of preseason coming off shoulder surgery on his throwing arm. One of his two pass attempts was a touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin, the wideout's second of the preseason. Benjamin is a great bargain right now in fantasy drafts with a Round 5-ish ADP. The big takeaway is that Newton is healthy enough to play. Carolina wants to be a run-first offense and why not when you have a backfield consisting of Jonathan Stewart and exciting rookie Christian McCaffrey? The backfield will likely be a rotation, but both look primed for a big season if all goes smoothly. You'll have to reach for McCaffrey in drafts but Stewart will come at a major discount and should still see high-end RB3/flex type volume.
Jaguars: After some quarterback controversy, the Jaguars named Blake Bortles their Week 1 starter. Chad Henne didn't do enough to sway the coaching staff his way apparently, despite a beautiful completion to Allen Robinson in double coverage. That was about the only good thing Henne did in his first-team opportunity. We've seen Robinson's ADP sink like a stone through the summer, but he should remain the most targeted wideout on the roster. The question that clouds the situation is just how motivated will Robinson and the rest of the pass-catchers be to give their all with Bortles under center? It's a risky offense to invest in for fantasy purposes.
New England Patriots at Detroit Lions
Patriots: Some of the worst news of the weekend was Julian Edelman's knee injury. He landed awkwardly after jumping a defender and was carted off the field. The next day the Patriots announced he suffered a torn ACL, ending Edelman's 2017 season before it started. As Rotoworld pointed out, Edelman leaves a team-leading 158 targets up for grabs in the passing game. The Patriots have great depth at wideout, so it's difficult to tell who will be the main benefactor of his absence. For now, it seems like Chris Hogan gets the opportunity bump, but Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and of course Brandin Cooks are all vying for looks along with Rob Gronkowski and possibly Dwayne Allen.
Mike Gillislee saw his first preseason action, scored on a goal line carry and showed good burst, lateral movement and speed on a 27-yard pickup in traffic. (Rex Burkhead was out but returned to practice Monday.)
Lions: Sign me up for Ameer Abdullah shares in every fantasy league. The third-year back looks primed for a breakout after missing 15 games last year with a foot injury. He's been a featured part of the Lions' first team offense all preseason. Abdullah has run with explosiveness, aggression at the line of scrimmage and is a threat to steal looks in the passing game. At his current Round 6 ADP, you can't go wrong.
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks
Chiefs:Spencer Ware suffered what is believed to be a torn PCL and a season-ending injury. Rookie Kareem Hunt has already been anointed the "feature" back by coach Andy Ried and his ADP has skyrocketed into the Round 3 range. Hunt is a complete dual-threat back, and put up over 1,800 scrimmage yards in his final year at Toledo. He was already going to push Ware for snaps, but this opportunity is undeniable. He could surpass some of the more hyped rookie backs like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey in fantasy points when all is said and done in 2017.
Seahawks:Chris Carson is a grown a** man. With Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise out with injuries, the rookie back had another opportunity to shine with Seattle's first team offense, and used it to his advantage. With big gains in both the passing and run game (37-yard reception, two 15-yard rushes), Carson might be the best (healthy) runner on Seattle's roster. Look for this kid in the later rounds of your draft, you'll probably have to search or scroll way down in the ranks. Given the durability issues with the running backs ahead of him including Eddie Lacy, Rawls and Prosise, Carson could payoff as a flier later in the season even if he has to ride the fantasy bench for a few weeks.
New York Jets at New York Giants
Jets: Running back Bilal Powell exploded against the Giants, mainly due to an 85-yard touchdown reception. He totaled 142 yards from scrimmage in the game, and will likely be the focal point of the Jets' offense with a lack of talent at pretty much every other position. He's worth a mid-round pick, especially in PPR leagues. Matt Forte got his first preseason action but didn't do much to write home about. Forte may go undrafted in some leagues.
Giants: With the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, rookie tight end Evan Engram showed well on his two catches for 32 yards. He has six catches for 75 yards in the preseason and is pretty much free in redraft leagues but could become a streaming option at tight end if the Giants make a point to get him the ball. The talented prospect is already a step ahead of other rookie tight ends O.J. Howard and David Njoku in terms of first-team reps and opportunity.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
Cardinals: After weeks of nothing but negative news about speedy receiver John "Smokey" Brown, the dude goes out and scores two touchdowns on his only two receptions, one being a 28-yard bomb from Carson Palmer. The throw was about as beautiful as it gets, a tight spiral with the perfect amount of arch, dropped right into Brown's bucket. If Brown can stay on the field, he could have sneaky week-to-week upside. With a fresh arm following a new offseason regimen, Palmer is also primed for a bounce-back.
Falcons: In Devonta Freeman's absence (concussion) Tevin Coleman looked as explosive as usual with two double-digit yard gains on limited work. With nothing but regression articles written about Coleman all offseason, he remains a solid upside flex back with potential for much more if Freeman ever misses playing time. He's currently being drafted in Round 7 on average, which is a tad steep given his committee status.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Bills: Nothing about Buffalo's offense excites us except LeSean McCoy. He should be in for a bell-cow type workload again and has looked explosive, but had a tough time getting anything going against a stout Baltimore front. Also be wary that Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion in this game. When Sammy Watkins was traded, Taylor's fantasy value took a big hit, so he's out of the running as a QB1 even in 12-team leagues.
Ravens: It's tough to analyze the Ravens first team offense without Joe Flacco under center. Ryan Mallet isn't moving the needle, folks. But Javorius Allen seems to have solidified No. 2 running back duties behind Terrance West, for what it's worth. Allen had just 25 yards on 12 carries and added one catch for three yards, so his performance was unimpressive. But if anything happened to West, Allen would likely be the early-down back for Baltimore.
Indianaplis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers
Colts:Frank Gore remains a keystone of the Colts offense despite his advanced age. He punched in a touchdown on one of his five rush attempts, and could provide fantasy managers with some mid-round upside in drafts. He's no pushover as a receiver either, scoring half of his touchdowns through the air in 2016. Rookie Marlon Mack has injected some youth into Indy's backfield as well, but until Andrew Luck gets back under center, this offense will not have much fire power.
Steelers: It's good that Martavis Bryant is playing football again. He caught five balls on Sunday against the Colts but totaled just 23 receiving yards. Let's hope the few looks he's received in preseason action have helped knock some rust off and he can hit the ground running in Week 1. He's being drafted in the middle of Round 6, so at that price, he'll have to show a bit more in order to be worth the selection.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Browns:DeShone Kizer is now the starting quarterback for the Browns, and he showed why this weekend. While he wasn't perfect, he showed the arm strength and play-making ability of a real NFL QB, not the facsimiles the Browns have been trotting out for the last two decades. Kizer will be worth watching in the early season, and could be a streaming fantasy option in the right matchups. The better news from his ascension to the starting role is the fantasy value of Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt. The former showed an early connection with Kizer that could turn into something big in the season. He may surpass Britt, an offseason fantasy darling, as the wideout to own in Cleveland.
Buccaneers: It was tough to take too much from the Bucs' dress rehearsal against the Browns, as the offense sputtered in the rain-soaked conditions. At this point, though, we should know what we're getting with this group, especially in the passing game. As for the backfield, this game could have signaled that Jacquizz Rodgers will carry the load for the team while Doug Martin serves his three-game suspension. Rodgers saw 11 touches on Saturday and led all Buccaneers backs with 22 snaps. He'll be a nice late-round option, especially for those who draft Martin or Ezekiel Elliott and need bodies to fill roster spots during suspensions.
-- Alex Gelhar
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
Raiders:Cordarrelle Patterson could be back from the fantasy abyss, folks. He seems to have the lead on the Raiders third wide receiver job, and caught a touchdown against the Cowboys. He won't have much value in standard redraft leagues, but could be a hot commodity off the waiver wire if Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree miss time. DeAndre Washington seems to have the edge over Jalen Richard for backup duties to Marshawn Lynch. He tied for the lead in snaps played on Saturday and led the backfield in carries (with a meager five). In the event Lynch does miss games, Washington will be the back to own but Richard would also likely mix in heavily.
Cowboys: Don't forget about old man Jason Witten this year, especially in PPR leagues. The veteran looked pretty spry for Dallas, catching all six of his targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. Witten is coming off the board as the TE15 right now, and if Dallas skews more pass-heavy during Ezekiel Elliott's potential six-game suspension, Witten could be a huge beneficiary. He isn't likely to crack the top-five tight ends given his age and the offense he operates in, but he has had 64-plus catches for 13 straight years.
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams
Chargers: The Philip Rivers-Keenan Allen connection looks as strong as ever. Rivers and Allen hooked up four times on four attempts, amassing 37 yards. Allen has only played nine games the last two years because of injuries, but doesn't appear to have missed a beat. If he stays healthy this year, he'll be back in the mix as a WR1-2.
Rams: This offense, while brimming with more potential and talent than any time in the past decade, remains an enigma as the regular season approaches. We still need to see more consistency from Jared Goff before buying into any of the pieces of this passing game as more than a late-round flier. Todd Gurley should have plenty of volume and if this offense presents him with a few more scoring chances, looks to be a safe-ish RB2.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Texans: The "dress rehearsal" for the Texans was more like a performance featuring all understudies, as the first-team offense operated without it's top three wideouts. As a result, there's little to glean from this contest for fantasy. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller, this unit shouldn't be garnering too much fantasy attention anyway.
Saints:Adrian Peterson saw his first action of the preseason, but offered little in terms of clarity with this backfield. How the touches will be split between Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara is anyone's guess. All three merit consideration in fantasy, especially the two veterans, but drafters must be aware that there is immense risk here with week-to-week volatility a probably outcome. Speaking of inconsistent weekly projections, Ted Ginn appears to be in peak form already. The speedster has flashed his typical big-play ability sandwiched around gut-wrenching drops. He's going to be a fantasy factor this year, but figuring out when that is will be the issue.
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos
Packers: Ty Mongtomgery is firmly leading the race as the Packers' featured back. The converted wide receiver looked strong running between the tackles, plowing into the end zone for a 1-yard score and ripping off a 25-yard run that featured several broken tackles. He caught his lone target, as well, for a 3-yard gain. This performance was emblematic of how Montgomery ran last year as well, albeit in a small sample size. Per Next Gen Stats, he averaged 5.55 yards gained after a defender came within 1 yard of him, which was among the highest totals in the league. There's risk with Montgomery if his sickle cell ailment flares up, or if rookie Jamaal Williams pushes him for work, but this was a clear example of the fantasy ceiling Montgomery can achieve.
Broncos: This backfield remains a mess for fantasy. C.J. Anderson got the start, got hurt, then came back and ran for a 16-yard touchdown. Jamaal Charles looked shifty and explosive in his brief work, while rookie DeAngelo Henderson ran hard but coughed up the football twice. This unit will generate fantasy points, but it could be via a true committee. Draft these backs with caution. The passing game, however, looks stable. Trevor Siemian proved capable of leading this offense to success. He's not going to break any passing records, but he can get his top two wideouts -- Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders -- to over 1,000 yards and with several scores a piece. This passing attack benefits from being one of the most highly concentrated in the league, as Thomas and Sanders have combined for over 49 percent of the total teams targets in each of the last three seasons.
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans
Bears:Mike Glennon appears to have cemented his role as the starting quarterback after a strong performance. Of course, with a talented rookie waiting in the wings (Mitchell Trubisky), Glennon's leash could be a short one. The bigger news from this game is the loss of Cameron Meredith for the year with what is believed to be a torn ACL. He was the Bears No. 1 wide receiver and his absence creates a black hole in this pass-catching corps. The remaining options -- Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz -- all carry serious question marks and aren't really worth a fantasy investment at this point in time.
Titans: The first-team offense struggled so much in this game that they played into the fourth quarter (a rarity in the preseason). This shouldn't be a cause for concern though, as one of the NFL's hottest offenses from last year (prior to Mariota's injury) reloaded the offensive cupboards with Eric Decker and Corey Davis this offseason. They should bounce back.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins
Bengals: The Bengals backfield appears to be heading towards a full blown committee, which is a disastrous development given Joe Mixon's lofty (third or fourth round) ADP. While Jeremy Hill suffered an ankle injury against the Redskins, this backfield could confound fantasy owners all season. The passing attack looks reloaded, though, as the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green connection appears as strong as ever, while rookie John Ross' speed could be a game-changer for this group. Don't overlook Dalton as a late-round quarterback option.
Redskins: Will the real Redskins offense please stand up? So far through the preseason the first-team unit in Washington has struggled more than expected. Kirk Cousins has completed just 57 percent of his passes with one touchdown, one interception and three sacks. Terrelle Pryor hasn't quite lived up to the billing as a No. 1 receiver, either. This is just the preseason, though, and the offense hasn't been at full strength the entire time as Jordan Reed was on the PUP for a bit. Things could turn around quickly. Rob Kelley ran well in this one too, likely cementing his status as the top back for Washington. Rookie Samaje Perine will push for touches, but Kelley looks to have decent upside for the early portions of the season.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
49ers: All of the hand wringing over Carlos Hyde earlier this offseason appears to have been for naught. The former Buckeye looked dynamic in Kyle Shanahan's offense against the talented Vikings defense. He shouldn't escape Rounds 3-4 without getting drafted.
Vikings: This was a performance to forget for the Vikings offense, as the starting group netted a mere 3 points on 11 possessions. It is the preseason so there isn't reason to totally panic, but if the offensive line woes become a recurring problem (Sam Bradford was sacked three times and hit repeatedly), it'll be hard for this frisky, talented unit to reach its fantasy potential.