What we want more than anything from the preseason as Fantasy Football players -- more than glimpses of our favorite breakout players or resolutions to the most important position battles -- is for everyone to stay healthy.
This year's preseason action has actually been pretty good in that respect, at least so far -- one game left this week, so let's all collectively knock on wood. However, there are still plenty of injuries from around the league to worry about, and we learned about another one Monday afternoon, as Adam Schefter reported that A.J. Brown is "expected to be ready for the start of the regular season" despite a knee injury that has kept him out of practice recently.
That's framed as good news, but … we had no idea there was even a question about Brown's availability! He underwent surgery on both of his knees this offseason but was cleared at the start of training camp for full participation. It was all system's go for Brown's Fantasy value, and while this doesn't necessarily mean Brown should be significantly downgraded, you have to be concerned about him not even being able to make it through training camp without an issue.
I'll have my updated rankings for every position in Tuesday's newsletter, so hopefully, we're going to get more information about what's going on before then, but I imagine I'll be moving Brown down from his current spot at WR6. This is why you need to stay up to date on the latest news from around the league as we enter the last weeks of draft season, because being ahead of your league mates on shifts in value or cost can be an edge when it comes time to draft. That's what this newsletter is all about.
In today's edition, I've got my reactions to this weekend's preseason action plus the rest of the latest news from around the NFL you need to know about. Plus, I want to introduce you to the latest project from our Fantasy team: The Fantasy Football Today Draft Guide! The guide features Draft Day strategies from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings, and myself, plus our sleeper, breakout, and bust picks, or biggest draft rules, our consensus top-200 rankings, and position-by-position strategies and player breakdowns to make sure you're ready for your draft.
It's like having us right next to you for your draft. All you have to do is sign up here and have it emailed right to your inbox for free, so make sure you check it out!
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And now, here's Monday's newsletter, starting with the biggest winners and losers from Week 2 of the preseason:
- Myles Gaskin -- Gaskin's usage in the first preseason game was one of the biggest stories in Fantasy over the last week, but it turns out it may have been a bit of an overreaction. Gaskin got the start in Week 2 against the Falcons and led the running backs in snaps with the first-team offense. He out-snapped Week 1's starter Malcolm Brown 19 to 5, with Salvon Ahmed earning 13 snaps. That's still not as much as Gaskin typically played last season -- he played 65% of the snaps in every game he was healthy enough to play in -- and if this is going to be a legitimate three-way rotation, Gaskin will be tough to trust in Fantasy. But you have to feel at least a little better about his usage in this one, especially if you think Gaskin is the team's best running back. As long as he's starting and getting the first reps of every game, he's got the chance to run hot and take over. That's what we'll be hoping to see early in the season.
- Corey Davis -- All of the hype in training camp has been around Elijah Moore, but it looks like Davis is going to be the Jets receiver to have for Fantasy. He's run 13 routes in two preseason games with Zach Wilson has been targeted on 10 of them. The rest of the Jets receiving corps still needs to get settled -- Moore hasn't played in the preseason due to a quad injury, while we still don't know whether he will start in the slot or if Jamison Crowder will, among other questions -- but at this point, the question isn't whether Davis will be the No. 1 option for the Jets passing game; it's a question of just how much he dominates. Davis is coming off a breakout season for the Titans in which he racked up 984 yards and five touchdowns on just 92 targets. You shouldn't expect that kind of efficiency this season, but it might not be asking too much for him to top both his touchdown and yardage marks from his career-best 2020 season. I've bumped Davis up from a 21.5% projected target share to 23.5%, and he's WR29 for me in my latest update. Too optimistic? Perhaps! But at the very least, his 10th-round ADP needs to shoot way up, and I expect it will.
- Ja'Marr Chase -- Performance doesn't matter much at all to me in the preseason. I don't think Chase is likely to lose much playing time because of his three drops this week, after all. But still, all other things being equal, you'd rather see a guy catch all of the passes thrown his way rather than dropping all of them. For me, this mostly serves as a reminder that, for all of Chase's immense gifts, this is his first competitive action in a game since January of 2020. We've seen a lot of high-profile prospects in baseball struggle this season after sitting out the 2020 season, and it's fair to wonder if we might see some of the same from guys like Chase who sat out or missed most of the 2020 season. You might need to be more patient than expected with Chase as he knocks the rust off. I'd still target Chase as a high-end WR3, but it's reasonable to prefer Tee Higgins at this point.
- Michael Carter -- This is the most attention the Jets have had devoted to them in a Fantasy article in years. Carter is the promising young prospect in a backfield full of boring veterans, but the Jets aren't just going to hand him a significant role. He's earned praise for his play in practice, but it hasn't led to a significant role in the first two preseason games, especially with the first-team offense. Wilson played 19 snaps in Week 2 and Carter wasn't out there for any of them, according to PFF. Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson split the first-team work, with Coleman getting 10 snaps, but it didn't seem like a committee usage -- both got two third-down snaps with that first-team offense. My expectation is still that Carter will eventually work his way into at least a split with Coleman, but it looks less likely to be the case by Week 1 at this pace. Carter is still the back to target for the Jets, especially because there's been a lot of talk about his playmaking in the passing game, but you can't view him as a Week 1 starting option right now. Coleman, meanwhile, definitely belongs in the mid-round low-end RB discussion.
More preseason winners
- Trey Lance -- While Lance has earned rave reviews from practice, in preseason action so far, he's looked a lot like a guy who hasn't really played since 2019 against a relatively low level of competition. The highs have been high, but the lows have been super low, including the start of Sunday's preseason game, as he went 1 for 5 with a pick through his first three drives. But he turned things around quickly finishing the game by completing seven of his final nine pass attempts for 93 yards and a pair of scores. It didn't hurt his cause that Jimmy Garoppolo went 3 for 6 for 15 yards and an interception in the game before Lance stepped in. I still think Garoppolo is likely to open the season as the starter, and he's competent enough to keep the job, but we should see Lance at some point, and he's worth a late-round stash for the potential to be a must-start Fantasy QB.
- Cam Newton -- If Newton was giving the Patriots reason to bench him, I think they might be willing to do that, especially with rookie Mac Jones looking capable in his preseason action so far. However, it's hard to come away from the first two preseason games with a sense that this offense is better off with Jones at QB right now. Newton is 12 for 16 for 152 yards (9.5 Y/A) and a touchdown, while Jones is 26/38 for 233 yards (6.1 Y/A) without a touchdown. Both have basically played mistake-free football, but if Jones isn't significantly outplaying Newton as a passer, there's no reason to think he's the better option right now. Newton is one of my favorite late-round QB targets, especially if I can pair him with someone like Justin Fields. Hopefully, Newton missing four days of practice this week due to COVID protocols won't hurt his chances.
- CeeDee Lamb -- With both Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper healthy and active, Lamb still played most of the team's two-WR sets and was in the slot for 11 personnel, too. If that's the usage he's going to see this season, Lamb should be a shoo-in for must-start production, even if I would still take Cooper first.
- Devin Singletary -- Singletary played 21 out of 33 snaps with "first team" offense (it was Mitch Trubisky in at QB instead of Josh Allen), including the first 18 snaps to open the game. Maybe that's just because Zack Moss was coming back from a hamstring injury and the Bills wanted to ease him back in, but if you were looking for some signs that Moss was running away with the No. 1 role, this was a bad sign. Singletary has been my favorite back for Buffalo all along because he's been used more as a pass-catcher, but I don't want either as a starter on any of my teams.
- Jakobi Meyers -- We haven't had a chance to see the new-look Patriots pass-catchers in action at the same time, as both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were inactive for this one as they dealt with injuries. However, newcomer Nelson Agholor was active for this one after sitting out the opener, and Meyers still led the team in snaps at WR with the first-team offense. He was also productive, with three catches on three targets for 53 yards and a score, which helps. Meyers is still probably someone you want to target just as a bench option, but if you can get him in the 10th round or later, Meyers is an excellent sleeper who is gaining a lot of hype.
- Qadree Ollison -- There seems to be no question Mike Davis is the lead back for the Falcons, but Ollison seems all but assured to be the primary backup after logging 18 of 24 snaps with the "first team" offense this week -- Matt Ryan didn't play. Ollison has just 53 yards on 23 carries through two NFL seasons, so he's got a lot to prove before you would ever want to trust him. However, Davis is no guarantee to hang on to that job all season, and Ollison seems like he'll be first up if anything happens.
- Terrace Marshall Jr. -- The Panthers were still without one starting wide receiver in this one, but Marshall played every snap with Sam Darnold and the first-team offense this week, another sign that he's worked his way into a significant role. Expect Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore to remain the top two options in the receiving game -- with Christian McCaffrey right alongside them -- but Marshall could see a role similar to Curtis Samuel's 97 targets from a year ago.
- Rondale Moore -- We haven't seen DeAndre Hopkins yet in the preseason, which makes it hard to say exactly how the Cardinals might use their wide receivers this season. However, Moore was on the field for each of Kyler Murray's nine snaps this week, logging seven out of the slot. Christian Kirk is likely Moore's main competition for slot snaps, but he has yet to play there in the preseason, which makes it worth wondering if Moore has already come close to locking in a significant role for Week 1? The Cardinals have manufactured a ton of touches for Moore so far, and he remains one of my favorite sleepers at wide receiver because of how I imagine Kliff Kingsbury might want to use him. We're getting a sense of that so far.
- Pat Freiermuth - Hauled in a pair of touchdowns from Ben Roethlisberger. Freiermuth only played four snaps with the first-team offense, so I'll still bet on Eric Ebron being the primary tight end to start the season -- Freiermuth ran about half as many routes as Ebron with both Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph in the game -- but Freiermuth has been garnering very positive reviews throughout training camp and is worth a late-round flier in TE-premium leagues and is worth rostering in any Dynasty league.
More preseason losers
- Dallas Goedert -- We can't take too much from the Eagles offense in this one with Jalen Hurts being a late scratch due to a stomach illness, but it's pretty clear at this point Zach Ertz is going to be a big part of this team assuming they don't find a last-minute trade partner. Goedert played 50% of the first-team snaps in Week 1 and then saw both Ertz and Richard Rodgers push him off the field in various one-TE sets. Goedert still figures to be the leader of this trio, but in a low-volume passing offense, that may not be enough to make him a must-start Fantasy TE like we were hoping he could be.
- Damien Harris -- Harris played eight of 17 snaps with the first-team offense in this one, and unlike in Week 1, he actually ceded a few snaps to Sony Michel. Harris is still, by all accounts, the lead rusher for the Patriots, but with Newton there to soak up work in the red zone and James White taking most passing situations, Harris can't afford to lose time to Michel. Nobody in this backfield should be drafted as a starter for Fantasy, but Harris is the only one going inside of the top 100 and I see no reason to reach for him there.
- James Conner -- Conner played just three snaps with the first team, all on one drive, and he actually shared the field with Chase Edmonds on his lone third-down snap. Edmonds played the first two drives before Conner took over for the third and final drive, a sign that Conner may be viewed as more of a 1b than the 1a Kenyan Drake was last year. This can be a valuable offense for running backs, and if Edmonds is seeing a decent amount of early down snaps in addition to his role as the pass-catching back here, he could be a nice value as a sixth-round pick right now.
- Antonio Gibson -- One of the key things I wanted to watch out for during the preseason was Gibson's third-down usage, and what we've seen so far should be very discouraging for those of us holding "Gibson Breakout" cards for 2021. Gibson didn't play on any of the third down snaps the team had in the preseason opener and then just one of his 13 snaps in Friday's game came on third down. The people around the Football Team can throw out that Christian McCaffrey comp all they want, but unless they actually start to trust Gibson for all three downs consistently, his upside as a pass-catcher is capped, which means his upside as a Fantasy player is capped.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster -- This was our first chance to see Roethlisberger play in Matt Canada's new offense, and … it looked a lot like last year's offense. Roethlisberger did line up under center on six of his 16 snaps, which is a new wrinkle, and the Steelers ran the ball on four of those and threw play action passes on the other two. But otherwise, it was more of the same, especially for Smith-Schuster, who had six targets, only one of which traveled more than 5 yards down the field. Smith Schuster had just 831 yards despite 128 targets last season, in large part because he saw so few targets down the field. If this is the way they're going to use him again, it's hard to get too excited.
- David Johnson -- Johnson played just three of 13 snaps alongside Tyrod Taylor, as he continues to be limited to just third-down work. Mark Ingram actually started and split early-downs work with Phillip Lindsay. At this point, none are worth drafting inside of the top 100.
- Giovani Bernard -- Even with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones inactive, Bernard played almost entirely on third downs still in this one, with second-year back Ke'Shawn Vaughn taking on more of a lead role. Bernard has a clear role in the offense, something neither Jones nor Fournette can say, but if you thought there was a chance Bernard might just end up the lead back, that seems unlikely at this point.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown -- In Week 1, St. Brown was the clear third WR behind Tyrell Williams and Kalif Raymond. In Week 2, St. Brown was the clear third WR behind Breshad Perriman and Quintez Cephus. This week was even worse for Brown, who played just 11 of 22 snaps with the "first team" offense, as Cephus even took some of the slot snaps we were expecting St. Brown to be locked into. St. Brown has been used exclusively in three-WR sets so far in the preseason, and he'll probably need to be a relatively high-volume target to have much value in that Lions offense, so this usage certainly doesn't bode well for his chances.
Other Position battle updates
- Broncos QB -- Drew Lock vs. Teddy Bridgewater -- Lock really impressed in the first preseason game, but it's not like he was dramatically better than Bridgewater, and Bridgewater was definitely the more impressive of the two in Week 2. I've gotten the sense that the Broncos would prefer if Lock won the job, but all indications are that the two have been neck and neck throughout camp, so if they want to name a starter soon and get them ready for Week 1, I would guess Bridgewater is in the lead now.
- Rams RB2 -- Xavier Jones vs. Jake Funk -- They split snaps pretty evenly, but the distribution was interesting, as Funk was mostly out there for early downs while Jones played seven of his 18 snaps on third down. Funk ran better than Jones, but if Jones is working passing downs, that probably means he has a more direct path to playing time and value alongside Darrell Henderson.
- Seahawks RB2 -- Rashaad Penny vs. Alex Collins -- Penny was active for the first time and split snaps evenly with Collins, with both seeing four third-down snaps. Collins was more productive, but Penny is the higher-upside play if you're looking for the Chris Carson handcuff.
- Cowboys TE -- Blake Jarwin vs. Dalton Schultz -- They pretty much split "first-team" reps evenly, with no notable difference in usage or role. The Cowboys will play in a decent amount of 12 personnel so both should be on the field, but if it's a true timeshare, it's likely neither will be worth using.