Historically, the third preseason game is the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season that formalizes depth charts and reveals lingering camp battles. Teams seem to be increasingly aggressive about sitting their starters in recent years, which complicates the picture. Oakland, for example, benched basically their entire active game day offense. We’ve never had more information about preseason than we do today, and yet we feel more in the dark than ever. Let’s explore some of the top observations from Thursday’s games.
1. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside dominated the Ravens
Arcega-Whiteside caught 8 of 9 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown. He did it all in this game, showing off strong hands on a ball at his shoelaces, displaying good YAC ability and bouncing off defenders, and elusive route-running on a 20-yard touchdown from Josh McCown.
Nelson Agholor owners need to be terrified at this point. The Eagles may have too much depth for the secondary receivers to make a huge fantasy impact, but it’s difficult to see Arcega-Whiteside not fighting for snaps as early as Week 1. He reminds me a bit of Delanie Walker’s combination of speed and physicality — defenders are going to struggle to stop him from going wherever he wants to go.
2. Justice Hill Way Back in the Pack
Baltimore held most of its veteran starters out of the Week 3 game, giving Trace McSorley, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Justice Hill the start. Hill played the whole first half, and returned a kick in the fourth quarter. He posted just 8 yards on 7 carries, but his best rush was negated by a penalty and he added three targets, which is extremely promising. The team probably wants him to get more reps because they expect him to contribute this year, but it also signals he is currently still fourth on the RB depth chart (despite being drafted as the clear RB2).
Hill may be back in the pack for the time being, but he has the fastest car on the track. The Ravens have shown a willingness to employ a deep committee at RB, but when Hill does pass any of these RBs, he’s going to stay ahead for good. There is a scenario where there is a solid four-way committee, but with Hill as the most valuable back. Mark Ingram could be Kamara’d once again, with Kenneth Dixon playing the direct back-up to Ingram, Gus Edwards the low-volume grinder, and Hill shouldering 35-40% of RB snaps, but hoarding the high-value touches.
3. Jake Kumerow Is Probably Happening
[Scott Rogowsky voice] Kumerow. Numero. Uno.
Well, probably numero cuatro, but Equanimeous St. Brown suffered what looked like a serious ankle injury, which will likely send him to IR. The drumbeat on Kumerow has not stopped since last summer, and if he cracks the top-four WRs, he needs to seriously be on the radar as a late-round sleeper. He may not even be an injury away at this point from being the next unexpectedly relevant Aaron Rodgers WR2.1 Pay close attention to whether Kumerow is getting the nod over Trevor Davis, Darrius Shepherd, and Allen Lazard.
4. Rodney Anderson Smashed in the Passing Game
With Trayveon Williams sidelined with a foot injury, Anderson becomes an attractive target in all leagues. The uncertainty of both players’ health has depressed both of their ADPs.
Don’t let your love of Trayveon dissuade you from also taking shots on Anderson. If fantasy players are sleeping on him because of his 8 carries for 7 yards, there may still be a small buy-low window. It’s his 4 receptions for 51 yards are the exciting development. Anderson humiliated Nathan Stupar on an 18-yard catch and run, and looked healthy and elusive all night.
5. Ito Smith Still a Bargain
Smith scored his third TD of the preseason and looks to be in the clear lead for the RB2 role on the Falcons. Despite that, he’s going off the board as RB60, which is a nice bargain for an RB with pass-catching upside, on a top offense, behind an RB1 in Devonta Freeman that everyone believes is a liability as a workhorse. Brian Hill will have some kind of role on the team, but it’s far from clear he’s an NFL-caliber back, and yet Smith has not gained appreciably in dynasty ADP despite Tevin Coleman leaving the team. It appears that Ito is being held down by speculation that Hill or Qadree Ollison could pass him on the depth chart, but that doesn’t appear to be in evidence.
Image Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
- We half-joke about 2015 when James Jones came off the street to lead the team in TDs, but this WR group is the weakest it’s been since that year Jordy Nelson was injured. (back)