Javonte Williams played in a football game this weekend. That wasn't unexpected, but given that it came just around 10.5 months removed from when he tore the ACL and LCL in his right knee, it counts as a significant step in Williams' path back to Fantasy Football relevance.

But what made him one of the winners from Preseason Week 2 isn't just that he played, but how much he played and how he was used. Williams played 13 snaps, had three carries, and was targeted five times in the first 20 minutes or so of the game, as they really didn't ease him back into action:

Williams started the game, and as PFF.com noted, he largely split snaps with backup Samaje Perine, with Williams playing 12 of 17 first and second-down snaps while Perine played six of seven on third down. That wouldn't be ideal usage for Williams in the regular season, except that the Broncos made a point of getting him involved in the passing game anyway, targeting him five times even though he had a pretty rough drop on his first one.

That could just be a case that the Broncos wanted to prioritize Williams to knock the rust off, however Sean Payton's teams in New Orleans targeted their running backs heavily, even on the early downs – Mark Ingram had 71 targets in 2017, despite Alvin Kamara earning 100 of his own. That won't be the exact split here, just like it wasn't every season in New Orleans, but it's to point out that there could still be room for Williams to be targeted 50-plus times this season even if Perine plays most of the third downs.

Of course, this was just Williams' first preseason game, so we can't just say Perine is the third-down back here. Williams was a pretty solid pass-catcher last season and is probably a more dynamic playmaker overall than Perine, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see that usage flip once Williams is back to 100%. It's just to point out that, even if Williams isn't the primary third-down option, he should still have a role in the passing game for the Broncos, and that's just what we saw this week.

Now, none of this is to say Williams needs to jump several rounds in ADP. This Broncos offense was last in the league in scoring a year ago, and while it's reasonable to expect some improvement, it still might not be a great one. And Williams wasn't an elite running back talent even before a serious injury, and he definitely lacked the top-end speed that makes for routine big plays; he'll likely need a lot of schemed-up passes and goal-line work to have a chance at a top-12 finish.

But he has a chance in this offense, I think. And, the fact that he was healthy enough to play this big of a role in a preseason game bodes well for his chances come Week 1. He'll probably be in something close to an even split with Perine to open the season, and I'd be at least mildly surprised if he topped 65% of the snaps in a game in September.  But if Russell Wilson bounces back, and Payton elevates the offense, you can see how Williams can emerge pretty easily as a must-start Fantasy option, even if he might not be the superstar many hoped he would be prior to the injury. 

Williams is already up to RB18 in ADP over the past two weeks in NFFC drafts, and that's probably about as high as I'd be willing to take him – and his price is likely to rise at least another spot or two now that we've seen him on the field. I'm not moving him up enough in my rankings to where I'm likely to take him at that cost, but at least after seeing him on the field, it's easier to see the path to justifying that price. That's the best you can ask for from the preseason. 

Here are some other players whose arrow is pointing up after this weekend's preseason action: 


Daniel Jones, QB, Giants 

Jones was within spitting distance of a top-12 finish in per-game scoring last season despite just 200.3 passing yards per game and less than one passing touchdown per game. His rushing gives him a nice floor, and the case for drafting him this season is based around a belief that he's poised to take a big step forward as a passer thanks to the addition of Darren Waller in particular. Well, Jones targeted Waller on each of his first three dropbacks and finished his lone drive Friday with 69 yards and a touchdown through the air. I'm not really moving Jones up at all in my rankings because of this – he's still QB16 for me – but if you're a believer, you got some evidence for it in his first preseason action. 

Maybe a winner

Kenny Pickett, QB, Steelers

I'm not really a believer in Pickett, an older prospect who didn't break out in college until he was a fifth-year senior. But he's drawn positive reviews out of training camp, with reports especially noting he's throwing the ball down the field more effectively, as he did on his 25-year strike to Pat Freiermuth to close out his day Saturday. He only made four throws, so I'm definitely not drawing any significant conclusions here, but it's a positive sign for a guy who badly needed some after a rookie season where he didn't have a single game with multiple passing touchdowns and really struggled to generate big plays. There's plenty of talent on this offense if Pickett can even be adequate. 

James Cook, RB, Bills 

The only time the Bills have really had a useful Fantasy option at running back in the Josh Allen era has been the rare times when they've used one back – typically Devin Singletary – for 65% of their snaps or more. We can't know how they'll deploy Cook once the games matter – especially with Damien Harris missing both preseason games to date with a knee injury – but so far, Cook is being treated like an every-down back. He played 14 of 16 snaps with Josh Allen in the game this week, and the only time he came off the field was after he played nine straight snaps on the second drive of the game. Cook is up to RB21 over the past two weeks in ADP in NFFC drafts, and while I don't love him at that price, I'm starting to buy in at least a little bit given how they've used him so far. 

Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans

I've been a bit worried about drafting Pierce as my RB2, seeing as he finished as RB21 in points per game last season despite getting 77.5% of the Texans RB touches before his season-ending ankle injury last season. If all he could manage was RB21 when playing next to Rex Burkhead, I've been pretty concerned about what is going to happen with a more competent backup in Devin Singletary in town. However, Pierce played every single snap on the Texans' first two drives with C.J. Stroud, after coming off the field regularly on third downs last season. If Singletary is more of a true backup, and Pierce is looking at a legitimate three-down role who only comes off the field when he needs a breather, he's a solid RB2, especially with Stroud's presence at least giving reason to believe there could be more positive moments for this offense as a whole than they had with Davis Mills and Co. last season. 

Tyjae Spears, RB, Titans

Spears got an extended look with the starters on the sidelines and his main competition to be Derrick Henry's backup dealing with an injury, and he took advantage. He rushed for 57 yards on seven carries, highlighted by a 33-yard touchdown where he leapt over a tackler at the line and sped past the rest of the defense for the score. Hassan Haskins' absence makes it tough to say for sure that Spears is the primary backup to Henry, but it seems like a pretty safe assumption, given the third-round pick the Titans invested in him. Henry is a 29-year-old with massive workloads in his recent past, so there's probably some elevated injury risk here, and Spears is a talented player with a three-down skill set whose primary knocks as a prospect (he may not have an ACL in one of his knees?) were more about his long-term outlook than skills. Spears is an intriguing late-round pick with upside if anything happens to Henry. 

Kendre Miller, RB, Saints 

It's been a roller coaster ride over the past few weeks for Miller, who suffered a knee injury during last week's game, just a few days after we learned Alvin Kamara would be out for the first three games of the season for a suspension. However, that injury ended up being a small enough issue that he was back on the field just a week later, and was the only running back to get a carry in the first half with the Saints backups in. That still likely puts him behind Kamara and Jamaal Williams, and he was coming off the field on third-and-long situations, so it's not clear how he'll be used when Kamara is out. However, he showed some skill as a pass-catcher, most notably with a nifty, over-the-shoulder catch on a downfield throw from Jameis Winston, one of three first-half catches. Williams is a steady veteran who should get 15 or so touches, but Miller does look like he's in line for a solid role when Kamara is out. If he shines there, he could still matter even when Kamara is active, and he should be on your late-round target list. 

Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs

Six different wide receivers saw the field for the Chiefs in Patrick Mahomes' 20 snaps Saturday, and Moore's 13 snaps were the second-most. You'd rather see him playing, say, 90% of the snaps rather than 65%, but for whatever competition there is here, it does seem like Moore has truly elevated himself. Last year's second-round pick had just 22 catches for 250 yards as a rookie, but right now, it looks like he's slated for a starting spot alongside Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a deep receiver who rarely earns high target shares. Travis Kelce is still the No. 1 option in this passing game, but if Moore could earn even a 20% target share, he'd probably be a must-start Fantasy option in this offense. I like late-round looks at Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross, and Kadarius Toney (who remains sidelined after knee surgery at the start of camp), but Moore is the obvious top target here, and worth drafting inside of the top-90 picks in drafts. 

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Seahawks

I'm a bit skeptical of the argument that Smith-Njigba is going to be so good that he jeopardizes DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett's paths to Fantasy stardom, but please don't confuse that with skepticism about Smith-Njigba's chances of making an immediate impact. He's a very, very good player, and he caught all three passes thrown his way in this one for 58 yards, including on a 48 on a near-touchdown from Drew Lock. All three of Smith-Njigba's catches came from the slot, and he's going to see plenty of one-on-one coverage with Lockett and Metcalf on the field. It's not out of the question that all three are worth using for Fantasy this season. 

Other rookie WRs

Smith-Njigba is locked into a significant role in his offense, but there were a few other rookie WRs who took big steps toward having roles this weekend. Here are some of the standouts: 

  • Jonathan Mingo, Panthers – The Panthers' second-rounder played all but one snap with the starters. He's locked in as one of the top three options for the Panthers, and while Adam Thielen and DJ Chark aren't non-entities, they aren't especially tough competition to overcome. Mingo has a path to Fantasy viability, although I'm still struggling with how to deal with Mingo's relative lack of production in an Ole Miss receiving corps that featured no other NFL-level talents. 
  • Puka Nacua, Rams – The fifth-rounder was inactive along with most of the other presumed starters for the Rams. He's a viable late-round dart throw in PPR leagues.
  • Michael Wilson, WR, Cardinals – Wilson played all but one snap with Colt McCoy on Saturday, playing on the outside along with Marquise Brown, while Rondale Moore handled most of the slot snaps. Wilson led Stanford in receiving as a sophomore in 2019, but injuries limited him to 14 games over the next three seasons, where he averaged 62 receiving yards per game. I prefer Brown and Moore, but given their struggles staying on the field in the NFL, Wilson could matter pretty early on. 
  • Rashee Rice, WR, Chiefs – He might have had the most conspicuous day of any rookie in terms of production, as he caught eight of nine targets for 96 yards against the Cardinals. However, only two of those targets came from Patrick Mahomes, as he played on eight of 20 snaps with the Chiefs starting QB. Rice is going to have a role from Week 1, but this could be a WR group where five guys see the field; six played with Mahomes Saturday. 
  • Marvin Mims, WR, Broncos – Mims was the Broncos clear No. 3 WR, and no other WR besides Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy even saw the field with Russell Wilson. One interesting wrinkle is that Mims played almost exclusively on the outside in three-WR sets, with Jeudy logging slot snaps in those sets. Mims goes undrafted in most drafts, but I've snagged the second-rounder late a few times. 
  • Trey Palmer, WR, Buccaneers – With Russell Gage suffering a season-ending injury last week, the Buccaneers have a pretty wide open competition for the WR3 spot, and my money is on Palmer. Palmer didn't play on the first drive of the game, but he started to get involved after that and hit on a 33-yard touchdown from Kyle Trask, his second score in as many preseason games. Palmer ran a 4.33 and produced well after a transfer to Nebraska from LSU last season, and while there are a lot of concerns about the Bucs offense in the Fantasy community, I'm highlighting him as a nice late stab in Best Ball formats especially. 
  • Jayden Reed – The Packers are going all-in on their youth movement, with their starting pass-catchers looking like Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Reed, and rookie tight end Luke Musgrave. Musgrave should be on your late-round sleeper list, and Reed made his presence felt this weekend by capping off a drive with a 19-yard score from the slot. He looks locked in as the primary slot option here, though given the presence of so many other young receivers, two of whom are more established, I'm not getting my hopes up right away. 

Parris Campbell, QB, Giants

We're starting to get some clarity on the Giants receiving hierarchy, and Campbell looks like he's going to play a significant role. That's been clear from training camp reports, and it was clear when he played on six of eight snaps with Jones this week, primarily out of the slot. Daniel Jones actually threw to the slot less often than the average QB last season, but that might be more about the lack of options in the Giants passing game last season. Campbell had stretches of utility with the Colts last season, and could be the best WR in this offense. 

Darren Waller, TE, Giants

Whichever WR ends up the best in the Giants offense is likely to be a distant second to Waller in target share no matter what. Waller had a 26% target share in 2020 and a 22.4% mark in 2019, and the latter feels like the floor here if he can stay healthy. The steady drumbeat out of camp is that he's been Jones' favorite target by far, and that carried over on the lone drive Jones played Friday, as he was targeted on his first three plays and four of 10 passes by Jones overall. I've ranked Waller as my TE7 due mainly to concerns about injuries as he enters his 30s, but if he stays healthy, he might make that look really bad. I may move him up to TE4 – that's where he comes out if I up his projected target share from 22% to 23%. 

Hayden Hurst, TE, Panthers

Hurst played all 11 snaps with Bryce Young in the Panthers first preseason game and then played 18 of 21 this week, including 14 in a row to open the game. Hurst ran a route on all eight of Young's dropbacks but wasn't targeted, a reminder that he isn't likely to be, say, a 100-target tight end – the soon-to-be 20-year-old career high was 88 in 2020. He might just be a fringe option, but in a passing game with no clear top option, Hurst could end up being useful in the same kind of way Tyler Higbee was last season with the Rams. He's a viable early-season streamer if you don't invest in the position and want to take a flier on one of the rookies like Dalton Kincaid, Luke Musgrave, or Sam LaPorta