Week 3 of the preseason is when coaches and Fantasy owners alike really get to learn something. The starters play the most they will all preseason and starting jobs are won and lost.
At least it used to be.
This year it seems fewer and fewer teams are using Week 3 as a dress rehearsal. I mean, the Packers and Raiders didn't even play on a regulation field. But that doesn't mean we didn't learn anything.
The biggest news of the third week was clearly Andrew Luck's retirement, and for this piece I start by focusing the impact it has on the Colts' receivers. I'm not drafting Devin Funchess or Parris Campbell anywhere close to where they were being taken. There's just not enough upside until as the third or fourth option in this offense. They're just late-round fliers. Of course, T.Y. Hilton is a completely different story.
I had Hilton as a high-end No. 2 receiver before this news, and now he's outside of my top-25 in all formats. I don't believe Jacoby Brissett is going to be terrible, and I do expect Hilton will be better than he was in 2017, but there are a variety of factors stacked against him.
For one thing, this is not an offense that peppers one person with targets. Last year, Hilton's 16-game pace was only 21.2% of the team's total pass attempts. That's fine if you throw 644 times in a season, but I expect the offense to average far fewer attempts with Brissett.
Hilton also has a career 57% catch rate, so it's not like he's going to pick up a lot of points from catches in PPR leagues. Pair that with a frustratingly low touchdown rate over his career, and any drop in efficiency from his quarterback can be really scary.
I've projected Hilton for 66-1,057-5 on 120 targets this season. That's No. 29 in my projections but will earn him a top-25 finish if he plays 16 games. I wouldn't draft him until Round 6.
Dede Westbrook looks like a No. 1 receiver
One team that did take a more traditional approach to Week 3 was Jacksonville. Nick Foles started for the Jaguars and threw his very first pass to Dede Westbrook, an indication of things to come. After a pair of fruitless drives, Foles led a 75-yard touchdown drive that included four more targets for Westbrook (including a 10-yard touchdown). Westbrook saw six official targets on Foles' three drives, more than half of Foles' attempts.
We've been raving about Westbrook as the No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville all summer, so it was nice to see him dominate targets the way he did. But it wasn't just the target volume or the passes completed that gave me reason for optimism. There were two attempts well downfield that almost connected for Westbrook. If he's targeted downfield regularly there's no reason he can't be a top-20 wide receiver.
Westbrook wasn't the only Jacksonville receiver we were watching on Thursday. It continues to look like D.J. Chark and Chris Conley will be the starting receivers with Westbrook until Marqise Lee is ready to return, but Chark did leave Thursday's contest with a concussion. Hopefully he recovers quickly.
Opportunity abound in Seattle
The Seahawks were without David Moore and D.K. Metcalf in their third preseason game and that will continue into the regular season. That leaves a lot of opportunity in this offense behind Tyler Lockett as the No. 2 guy. At least it could.
Traditionally Russell Wilson's No. 1 receiver has commanded 22-25% of the team's targets. If that's the case for Lockett then there are a ton of targets available for the other pass catchers. If Lockett exceeds that number then there's just about no doubt he's a No. 1 receiver.
The Seahawks played in a lot of jumbo formations Saturday, and Jacob Hollister actually earned the first target from Wilson. We saw Will Dissly line up in the slot, and Wilson't first pass to a receiver was a deep shot to Malik Turner. The first two plays of the second quarter highlighted the connection with Lockett as they hooked up on back-to-back deep plays for a combined 50 yards. Jaron Brown also caught an 18-yard pass.
So what can we take from all of this? Lockett has No. 1 receiver upside right now, even if we can't project him quite that high. Brown is the team's clear No. 2 receiver until someone gets healthy and needs to be rostered in deeper leagues. If any one tight end could seize the role they would be a valuable commodity. And maybe most importantly, this likely to remain a very run-heavy team for as long as the defense holds up.
Ravens rookies on the field together for the first time
We didn't get to see any Lamar Jackson on Thursday night, but we did get to see Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin on the same field for the first time. Brown received the team's first target, a 7-yard hitch, and was given a carry that went nowhere later in the drive. The important thing isn't how successful the first-round pick was, but that he's finally healthy enough to play real football. The one thing you can take away from this performance is that the Ravens were making an effort to get the ball in Brown's hands quickly and let him make plays with his speed. He's going to need a huge target share or a lot of YAC to make these targets worthwhile in Fantasy.
Boykin's lone catch was nothing like what we saw from Brown. He beat his man on a deep out down the left sideline then split two defenders to turn it into a 44-yard gain. I moved Boykin ahead of Brown earlier in camp because he was the rookie who was available, and I'm leaving him there for now. Boykin should have more success in the red zone and may just get more targets downfield as well.
While Jackson didn't play, he may be the biggest winner here. If Boykin and Brown both reach their potential, this is a very good receiving corps.
Cardinals' receiving corps might just be too messy
We haven't seen exactly what this Arizona offense is going to look like. There have been encouraging signs (Kyler Murray's throws) and terrifying signs (them trying to block anyone) but there's been one thing that may or not be an indicator; the snaps for the wide receivers.
This was evident again in Preseason Week 3 with Kyler Murray getting off to a great start, including a long shot to Damiere Byrd. Why Byrd was on the field on the first drive and Christian Kirk wasn't is a mystery, but Kirk has been pretty quiet this preseason. Later in Murray's action we saw a couple of really nice connections with KeeSean Johnson.
My concern isn't so much that Johnson or Byrd are beating out Kirk. That sounds absurd. But Kingsbury was known for using a lot of different pass catchers at Texas Tech. In 2018 the Red Raiders had seven players with at least 22 catches and only one with more than 62. In Patrick Mahomes' final season, no one caught more than 69 passes despite the fact the team attempted more than 600 passes. So far this preseason it's been much of the same with a large number of guys rotating in with the first team.
With the acquisition of Michael Crabtree it's even more crowded, and I'm beginning to get a little worried about any receiver in Arizona having more than flex appeal.
Don't forget about J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
It's kind of rude that I put Arcega-White this low in the notes considering he was arguably the best receiver on Thursday night. He caught eight passes for 104 yards and scored a touchdown. That's better than the Ravens rookies combined. The first thing that jumped off the tape was the physicality on his first catch over the middle. I love seeing a receiver go over the middle, haul in a pass and then bounce off defenders. He also showed very good hands on the touchdown.
The only negative is that most of his production came with Josh McCown, and more than half of it came in the second half. This is a stacked team with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson all well ahead of him in the pecking order. There's a good chance Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert are as well. Arcega-Whiteside showed the talent that makes him a worthy stash in Dynasty or very deep redraft leagues, but he won't be a reliable contributor without at least one injury.
In other wide receiver news:
- Auden Tate got a lot of work with Andy Dalton and the first team offense. Tate could fill A.J. Green's role as a big outside receiver until the star returns.
- Jakobi Meyers delivered another impressive performance, catching seven passes for 74 yards, but this Patriots depth chart at receiver just keeps getting deeper. If Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and James White are all available, Meyers will be nothing more than a deep stash.
- Albert Wilson and DeVante Parker both missed the team's third preseason game. Wilson is practicing and could be ready for Week 1, but Parker probably needs to get back on the practice field quickly.
- Chris Godwin again led Tampa Bay in receiving on Friday night and has now played every single snap with Jameis Winston this preseason. He won't be as involved once Mike Evans is healthy, but we have been given no reason to doubt the preseason hype.
- Robby Anderson got behind the Saints defense for a 41-yard gain and was once again the best Jets' receiver. I was a little worried about Adam Gase falling in love with Jamison Crowder, but the past two weeks have been encouraging.
- We may have taken Kyle Shanahan's motivation of Dante Pettis a little too literally after Week 1. Once again in Week 3 it looked very much like Pettis and Marquise Goodwin are the starting wide receivers on this team.
So which Fantasy Football breakouts should you target in your draft? And which rookie running back is a must-have RB2? Visit SportsLine now to get 2019 Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Tevin Coleman's breakout season, and find out.