Preseason Week 3 fantasy takeaways

The third week of the preseason is often when teams elect to play their starters for a good chunk of the game. Inherently, we see most of our future fantasy team's stars get to work in this set of games. Below we review each game of Week 3 in the preseason to look for fantasy clues.

FRIDAY

New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers

» The first-string Patriots had a little bit of a tough time getting off the runway. Tom Brady threw two interceptions on 13 passes, and only averaged 6.5 yards-per-attempt. However, it's hard to blame the future Hall of Famer when players like Aaron Dobson got major run with the first team. While decimated at the current moment, perhaps the Patriots receiving corps will be a bit more functionally healthy when Brady comes back from a possible early-season suspension.

» Dion Lewis once again made his case to earn the rights of the pass-catching running back in New England. On his touchdown catch, the veteran running back split out wide and ran a slant against a linebacker. These are the types of mismatches that New England always looks to create with a running back. Lewis looks in the lead for that job, at the moment. He's worth a look late in PPR drafts.

» We are bordering on disaster-level in the Panthers passing game. The team wanted to give Corey Brown a look as the top option, and it's safe to say he dropped the ball on his assignment. Literally. Brown didn't catch a single one of the targets delivered by Cam Newton, and dropped multiple passes. There was a particularly egregious one where he had a sure touchdown slip through his hands. Brown has some talent, and creates good separation, but he's in shape to lead this team at receiver. With Devin Funchess once again sitting out, no one is stepping up to take over for Kelvin Benjamin.

»Cameron Artis-Payne appears to officially be the number-two running back, but keep an eye on Fozzy Whittaker. He showed some good moves in space against the Patriots, handling four touches. Whittaker has good hands, and could play a role as a passing game back in the event of a Jonathan Stewart injury.

Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars

»Matt Stafford and Golden Tate were in a groove Friday night. The duo connected three times for 91 yards, including a 62-yard bomb of a touchdown. It's hard to pay a high price for Tate in redraft leagues, in light of his splits when Calvin Johnson plays versus when he sits, but he's going to have big weeks this season.

»The Detroit running backs looked excellent, once again. Ameer Abdullah showed off his tremendous combination of agility and power to drive through tacklers on a 21-yard reception. Zack Zenner continues to impress, as well. He ripped off 85 yards on eight carries, and scored a touchdown. With the play of these rookie running backs, and the presence of Theo Riddick, one has to consider if there is much use for Joique Bell when he comes back from an all-offseason injury absence.

»We played this game last year, but Blake Bortles once again looks superb in the preseason. The second-year passer diced up the Lions, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown. Bortles looks much more comfortable in this stripped down offense, and much more in tune with the game than at any point in his rookie season. Again, we'll wait until the games matter, but an improvement from Bortles makes this very young offense interesting.

»T.J. Yeldon saw his first NFL action. He did not get much going on the ground, amassing only 10 yards with his longest run being four yards. Yeldon did have a nice catch and run for 12 yards, where he showed off good functional power. But it was Denard Robinson who caught three passes, including a 23-yarder from Bortles. It's hard to get too excited about Yeldon's fantasy outlook, unless he's going to own all three downs and this offense does take the aforementioned jump to respectability.

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

»David Cobb was on the shelf with a calf injury over the weekend so Bishop Sankey got the start. He averaged just 2.8 yards per carry with 17 yards on six attempts and lost a fumble. Sankey should remain the starter when the regular season gets underway while Cobb remains week-to-week. It's also not out of the question for Tennessee to add depth at the running back position before Week 1, according to coach Ken Whisenhunt.

»Marcas Mariota connected with wideout Kendall Wright three times for 60 yards in this one. Wright's 19 yards after catch helped to boost Mariota's total passing yardage to 99 on the night with an average of 9.0 yards-per-pass. The rookie signal-caller is having an impressive preseason but he and Wright are nothing more than deep sleepers in fantasy.

»Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce combined for 107 receiving yards and two touchdowns, helping Alex Smith's 16-for-18, 171-yard effort. Jamaal Charles also looked as slippery as ever with 8.7 yards per rush (three attempts for 26 yards) and added 15 more yards on two receptions. The Chiefs offense could be sneakily efficient this year, making offensive weapons like Maclin and Kelce coveted targets in fantasy drafts. And that guy Charles, he's pretty good too.

SATURDAY

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

»The big story in this game was the 3-138-1 performance (in the first half) by Martavis Bryant. His 205 receiving yards and 96 yards after catch through three exhibition games leads all wideouts. Bryant is a weekly difference-maker both in the Steelers passing game and for fantasy rosters. Despite his suspension, he still needs to be drafted in all formats and his sky-high ceiling will make for a great weekly DFS play once he's back on the field.

»We learned on Monday morning that the Bills cut veteran running back Fred Jackson. It was a surprising move seeing as he just ripped off a 41-yard touchdown run on Saturday against Pittsburgh. He may end up on another team so keep an eye on where he lands as he could bring more to the table than he would have with the Bills.

»Tight end Charles Clay finally broke through with a 67-yard touchdown reception from EJ Manuel. Clay's role as a pass-catcher in the Bills offense is still a question mark though, especially with receivers like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods resting.

Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

»Sam Bradford looked phenomenal in this contest. He wasn't asked to take a deep shot, but he didn't need to, as the Eagles' offense was the pinnacle of efficiency, moving the chains seemingly at will. Bradford was accurate, decisive and looked as if he had been born to play in Chip Kelly's scheme. This was a reassuring performance for owners who tied their fantasy hopes to Bradford.

»Once again, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews both saw work with the first team, with Murray getting the slight edge in touches (eight to seven). Owners shouldn't be scared of drafting either of these backs. Murray should be able to return at least his RB2 price tag, while Mathews has loads of upside as a late-round flex option.

»Randall Cobb suffered an AC sprain on his first target, prompting the team to quickly remove Davante Adams from the game. Cobb's injury is minor, though, and the team is optimistic he'll be ready for Week 1. In his stead, Jeff Janis caught another preseason touchdown, while Ty Montgomery flashed with a nice catch and run of 52 yards. Both of these youngsters are worthy of being rostered in all formats until we see who breaks out in the regular season.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins

»Lamar Miller might end up being one of the steals of the fantasy season, as it appears the Dolphins are going to use him as a true featured back. Miller received five targets and six carries against the Falcons before his night was over, and looked great. He should not escape the second round of fantasy drafts.

»Jarvis Landry is undoubtedly Ryan Tannehill's favorite and most trusted target. The duo hooked up five times for 84 yards on Saturday, teasing big things to come this season.

»Tevin Coleman finally saw the field, but his offensive line didn't do him any favors. Both he and Devonta Freeman have upside this season, but fantasy owners will basically be drafting in the dark with no clarity yet as to who might emerge as the leader in this backfield.

»Leonard Hankerson is a name to watch in the very late rounds or on the waiver wire early in the season. He was one of the offseason stars for the Falcons, and with Roddy White aging (and coming off surgery), Hankerson could find himself as the second wide receiver in a strong offense.

Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals

» With a few of the Bears top receivers sidelined with injuries, Martellus Bennett saw seven targets in limited work. If these injuries linger, Bennett will have a better chance of coming close to his career numbers from 2014.

»Jeremy Hill looked good again, and continues to see far more work with the No. 1 offense than Giovani Bernard. We feel more and more comfortable with Hill's 2015 floor (and asking price) with each passing week.

»Matt Forte didn't get much help from his offensive line, but looked good anyway, using his lateral agility to elude tacklers in the backfield while flashing burst cutting up field. While there are reasons to be concerned with Forte in 2015, he appears to be ready to give fantasy fans at least one more solid season.

Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys

»Joseph Randle got the start and the first carries, but didn't do too much with them. McFadden looked better when he came in during the second quarter, but the line was able to give him a little more room to work with. Both backs still need to be drafted, but this could stay as a frustrating committee.

»Tony Romo got his first extended action of the preseason, and looked good, showing an immediate connection with Terrance Williams (Dez Bryant did not play). While the box score only shows the exciting touchdown to the right, one of their hookups was nullified by a penalty, and another was narrowly incomplete on the sideline. Williams is an intriguing late-round wide receiver to target, especially if he can start producing on a more consistent basis. He scored eight touchdowns last year, but almost 64 percent of his fantasy output came in the first seven games.

»Teddy Bridgewater continues to impress. He hit Mike Wallace on a nice deep pass along the sideline, and targeted Kyle Rudolph in the red zone (although it was on a short crossing route). We like Teddy as a QB2 with QB1 upside for 2015.

»Don't look now, but Cordarrelle Patterson made a play ... on special teams. Patterson showed off his speed on a 107-yard kickoff return touchdown, which might be the main way he contributes in fantasy this season.

Washington at Baltimore Ravens

»Now we know that Kirk Cousins has been named Washington's Week 1 starter over Robert Griffin III. But after watching both of them play this weekend, I have one question: Does it really matter? No. No it does not. The offense is a mess either way. Now it has officially become Jay Gruden's mess.

»While Washington's quarterbacks deserve blame for their respective awful performances, some of the onus falls on the offensive line as well. That group struggled in pass protection but they made up for it by being awful in opening holes for the running backs as well. That's not reassuring if you're targeting (or have already drafted) Alfred Morris.

»The upside for Washington is that Matt Jones continues to look impressive this preseason. It should be taken with a grain of salt because he has generally seen most of his snaps against second-team defenses. Still, there's reason to believe he could see some meaningful carries when the regular season begins.

»If you read the Ravens roster, you'll see that they have more receivers on the team than just Steve Smith. But if you watch the Ravens, you wonder if Joe Flacco trusts any of them. The Baltimore quarterback seemed to have eyes only for the veteran over the weekend. That subtracts whatever minimal draft value players like Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro had.

Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

»The preseason hasn't been great for Russell Wilson and Saturday was no exception. The Seahawks quarterback was a lackluster 7-of-15 for 56 yards. He did run the ball four times for 53 yards, reminding fantasy managers why he's such a valuable quarterback option. Still, we'd like to see him get the passing game going -- especially connecting with Jimmy Graham -- sooner than later.

»Being a backup to Marshawn Lynch generally means not getting a whole lot of work. But in the event that Beast Mode can't fulfill his duties, Christine Michael made a strong case to become the guy. Consistency is going to be the key if he gets on the field.

»Melvin Gordon looked a little better in his second preseason game, but the rookie is still very indecisive with the football in his hands. As if to underscore the point, Philip Rivers reminded reporters that the Chargers will likely run a backfield committee. That should boost the stock of Danny Woodhead, who looked good in his work on Saturday.

»Steve Johnson hasn't seen much playing time this preseason, but he made the most of his time against Seattle. Johnson and Rivers connected several times in the first half and looked very comfortable with each other. There are certainly no defined roles among the Chargers wideouts, so Johnson could have a sizable role in the passing game this season.

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos

»It was a pretty productive night for the 49ers running backs. Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush ran well. The Niners even got a few nice plays from Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne. The biggest issue is that the running game could be taken out of the equation if San Francisco finds itself trailing in games, which seems very likely.

»Part of why the Niners could find themselves trailing is that Colin Kaepernick continues to struggle. So far in the preseason, Kap has completed just 5-of-13 passes for a dismal 40 yards. Could the regression be continuing? The early returns certainly aren't positive.

»Speaking of regressing ... Peyton Manning looked very erratic when throwing the ball downfield, continuing a trend we saw near the end of last season. That's bad news not only for Manning's value, but for Demaryius Thomas as well.

»We came into the preseason wondering if Cody Latimer might be worth a deep sleeper pick. Maybe we were looking in the wrong place. Jordan Norwood performed well out of the slot with the first-teamers. Maybe he's the Broncos dark horse we've been looking for.

New York Jets at New York Giants

»Chris Ivory's strong preseason continued on Saturday as he upped his yards per carry average through three exhibition games to 5.9. He ripped off a 16-yarder against the Giants and with every game, he looks more and more like the Jets feature back, a role he is primed for. He has potential to post low-end RB2 numbers and is an insane value with an average draft position as RB29.

»Seeing his first action of the preseason Odell Beckham Jr. hauled in five catches for 31 yards on six targets. A few missed opportunities included an Eli Manning misfire on a deep sideline bomb and one of OBJ's signature one-handed grabs in which he landed out of bounds on his way to the ground. He remains one of the top fantasy wideouts across the board.

»For all the talk about the Jets not having a quarterback, Ryan Fiztpatrick is handling this offense like a ... well, he's handling it. Fitzmagic connected with Eric Decker for the receiver's first score of the preseason. Decker finished with 52 yards on three catches and is greatly undervalued in fantasy this season. Brandon Marshall racked up 33 yards on three catches and looks like a solid WR2 who could far out-produce his ADP.

»As one might expect, Rashad Jennings led the Giants in rush attempts while Shane Vereen did his damage in the passing game. Jennings scored New York's only rushing touchdown on a 1-yard run, and received two carries inside the red zone prior to the score. There is some speculation that Andre Williams may serve as the team's goal-line back but it's a good sign for Jennings' fantasy stock that he was the go-to in this situation. Vereen caught three passes for 30 yards and rushed three times for nine yards. He's pretty much locked in as the team's passing-down specialist so his fantasy value is limited to PPR formats.

Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

» Doug Martin continued to crush his preseason opportunities with 40 rushing yards on nine carries including an explosive 19-yard touchdown run. Martin is averaging 5.9 yards per carry on 20 total attempts through three exhibition games. He looks quicker and more determined than he has the last two seasons and is primed for a bounce back in a contract year.

»We were all waiting to see rookie runner Duke Johnson's big preseason debut, but the Miami (FL) product had just one rush attempt for four yards, one reception for one yard and left the game with a concussion. For a rookie who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for the majority of the preseason, his lack of durability so far is a red flag for his fantasy value.

»Once again, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West split reps with the Browns' first team offense. Neither back did anything to set themselves apart, but if I had to say who looked better on tape I would side with Crowell. He ran like he wanted the starting job in this game and was also involved in the passing game with two catches for 12 yards.

Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams

»The Colts were not firing on all cylinders, but there were still some shining moments. Andre Johnson and Andrew Luck hooked up for a touchdown. Johnson was wide open in the middle of the field. Given his age, Johnson is going to benefit quite a bit from playing a little more slot receiver with all the other weapons present.

»The biggest Colts takeaway is that T.Y. Hilton now finds himself in the concussion protocol. This close to Week 1, that's not what you want to see.

» Nick Foles had an excellent day. He completed all but one of his passes, including a perfect deep strike touchdown to Chris Givens. There were a few instances of blunders under pressure, but this was an encouraging sign for the new Rams starting quarterback.

SUNDAY

Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders

»It wasn't a particularly good night for quarterbacks. Carson Palmer was inconsistent all day, throwing a pair of picks -- although one could be laid at the feet (or hands) of his wide receiver. Still, it wasn't the type of dress rehearsal you would want for a quarterback who has good late-round appeal.

»One bright spot in the Cardinals passing game was John Brown. Arizona is not afraid to target him on a number of different patterns on the route tree. The longer Michael Floyd is on the shelf, the more Brown establishes himself as the go-to receiver in the offense.

»Did I mention the quarterbacks has a rough go of things? Derek Carr was inconsistent at best. He made some nice throws, but the offense bogged down in the red zone and he ended his night with an awful play that ended in a pick six. The upside is that he has receivers who can actually get open, unlike last year.

»One of those receivers is rookie Amari Cooper, who continues to look dangerous with the football in his hands. He should be targeted early and often in the Raiders passing game this season and has plenty of upside.

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints

»Now that Brian Hoyer is the unquestioned starter, for the time being, he took all the first team reps. He hooked up with DeAndre Hopkins for what was a nice would-be touchdown, but he was just out of bounds. Every indication appears to hint Hoyer can keep Hopkins value afloat.

» None of the running backs did much of note. Only Jonathan Grimes took a carry for more than nine yards.

» There was not much to note on the Saints side of this game, as they pulled starters after one series. Just a little dink and dunk to Brandin Cooks with a few short Mark Ingram runs mixed in, and that was a wrap.

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