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THE FANTASY HOT SEAT: Players to Watch in Week 3 of the Preseason

The third week of preseason football is generally the closest thing to regular season action that NFL fans and fantasy owners will see. Teams tend to play their starters for at least the first half and often into the third quarter. As someone who generally watches preseason football with one eye closed mainly hoping that no one suffers a significant injury, Old Uncle Waldo is genuinely interested in this week’s games.

There are some situations worth monitoring from a fantasy perspective as fantasy draft day looms and some players that need to step up to maintain their current Average Draft Position (ADP) or perhaps even increase it. There are also some interesting competitions for starting roles that could influence ADP as well as a player’s current ranking. For the sake of this article, we are looking at redraft format leagues.

The story of the first two preseason games has been the stellar play of Dallas QB Dak Prescott who has looked very poised and has likely cemented himself as Tony Romo’s backup. Prescott is not really the type of player we will examine in this piece as he holds zero fantasy value in redraft formats unless Romo goes down (which is not an uncommon occurrence). The players I am interested in have had varying levels of success in the first two weeks of the preseason and warrant a closer look in week three to see if we should continue to covet them at their current ADPs or ranking.

In his first action since recovering from an Achilles injury, RB Arian Foster of the Dolphins looked understandably rusty. After early reports out of training camp had been glowing regarding Foster, he put up minus-5 yards on a pair of carries. He should see more looks this week against the Atlanta Falcons and we should have a better idea of where Foster is at health wise. The Falcons defense isn’t exactly a juggernaut having finished 19th against the run last season and is allowing 90 yards per game on the ground in the preseason.

According to MyFantasyLeague (MFL) ADP results (968 drafts including mocks and actual leagues), Foster is currently the 27th RB off the board. He is being selected ahead of players such as Frank Gore, Jonathan Stewart and Ryan Mathews who are penciled in as the main RB on their respective teams. If Foster continues to struggle with his touches this week then it may be time to reassess his value and move the once mighty fantasy RB down the rankings.

Just ahead of Foster at an ADP of 25 is second year RB Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers. Folks were pretty excited after Gordon took a Philip Rivers pass 44 yards for a touchdown in the preseason opener. In week two, it was the Gordon who had a disappointing rookie season in which he failed to score that reemerged. Gordon put up 18 yards on six carries which is basically on point with the 3.5 yards per carry that he averaged last season.

The kid has a lot to prove coming off of micro-fracture surgery and needs to start showing something this week. When a team trusts a 31-year-old 5’ 8” 200-pound Danny Woodhead as the red zone threat over Gordon who is 6’1” and 215 pounds there are concerns.

The Chargers face a stout Minnesota Vikings defense this week and if Gordon ever needed a big week this is it. A solid performance against the Vikings would go a long way to cementing the RB3 value with upside position that Gordon currently holds. Another week of sub par play and perhaps the curse of Wisconsin RBs as fantasy players is a real thing indeed.

Sticking with former Wisconsin RBs, it’s going to be interesting to see just how the Dion Lewis injury will impact the touches of former Badgers RB James White. Initial reports seem to indicate that White will step in immediately as the passing-down back for the Patriots. While that seems the obvious direction to go let’s not forget that “The Hoodie” loves to mess with fantasy owners where the RB position is concerned. Another player to watch this week for the Pats is RB Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney had a huge week one of the preseason racking up 64 rushing yards including a 44-yard TD run but struggled in week two managing only 31 yards on 11 carries. In his first two seasons, Gaffney suffered season-ending injuries in training camp and is only now seeing game action for the first time as a pro. In the first two preseason tilts, he has amassed 25 touches and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues as the starters garner more playing time this week.

This one will be short and sweet. Let’s see if Tony Romo can play a few series and stay healthy heading into the regular season. A healthy Romo throwing to a healthy Dez Bryant will easily outperform his current ADP as the 19th QB off the board.

Speaking of the Cowboys, it would be nice to see rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott perform under real game conditions, but it won’t necessarily alter his current top-5 ADP among RBs. Regardless of how he’d play, the kid is the real deal and will be the lead dog in the backfield.

It hasn’t taken newly signed WR Marvin Jones long to develop a rapport with QB Matthew Stafford and it will be interesting to see how the two look this week against the Baltimore Ravens. I’ve already moved Jones ahead of Golden Tate in my WR rankings here at Fantasy Sharks and will watch to see if that move continues to be a wise one. Jones has looked very sharp while hauling in five receptions for 81 yards while Tate has put up three catches for 41 yards. Jones is a fantasy steal right now as the 39th WR off the board. You are welcome.

After taking the preseason by storm last season (and seeing his ADP soar in the process), Detroit RB Ameer Abdullah has yet to hit the field in 2016. Abdullah recently shed the red ‘no contact’ jersey at practice and could see some action in week three of the preseason. The Lions’ backfield has once again struggled to move the ball via the ground averaging only 3.1 yards per rush in the first two games. The starting gig is Abdullah’s to win but he has to get on the field to grab it and also address the ball handling issues he suffered as a rookie. A decent performance would help him retain the RB3 value he holds currently.

There appears to be some nice chemistry between Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota and rookie WR Tajae Sharpe. With the trade of Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles, Sharpe has little competition for a starting job and put up six receptions for 68 yards last week playing with the ones. On a team desperate for some receiving options after TE Delanie Walker, Sharpe could be just what the fantasy doctor ordered. He currently holds an ADP as the 68th WR being selected and we’ll watch that number climb if he puts up another solid showing against the Raiders this week.

It’s been tough to gauge the Arizona Cardinals WR performances thus far as Carson Palmer has thrown a total of 13 passes in the preseason. Both John Brown (concussion) and Larry Fitzgerald (MCL issue) missed last week (Brown missed week one as well) but have the chance to play in this week’s dress rehearsal. Hopefully we get a glimpse of how each looks playing with their starting QB once again and if their current ADPs still seem appropriate. Brown is currently going off the board as the 34th WR while L-Fitz is 29th and teammate Michael Floyd is the 27th WR taken. After this week those, numbers could flip-flop in any number of ways depending on how many looks each gets and how they perform.

This just in. Dez Bryant looks fit and ready to dominate in the red zone once again. I have him at number five in my latest WR rankings. He may actually outperform that ranking.

It may not have a lot of fantasy impact, but after watching San Francisco QB Blaine Gabbert dinking, dunking and completely missing on passes it will be interesting to see Colin Kaepernick play. He’s returned to practice and is expected to play in the third preseason game. Who knows? Kaepernick may even throw the ball to Torrey Smith more than the single time Gabbert has targeted him.

Somebody has to win the starting gig at QB for the Denver Broncos so we’re keeping a close eye on Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch this week. Sanchez has been a turnover machine opening the door for Siemian and Lynch to compete for the starting role. Siemian has been tabbed the starter for the third preseason game but hasn’t done much to take control of the starting gig. Something tells me that Lynch will ultimately be the guy even though Denver would prefer for him to sit and learn the offense. Of course, that’s well and good if there is a QB in front of him to learn it from. Right now there isn’t one in Denver.

With weapons like Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders the player who wins the job will be at least a nice fantasy backup or bye week filler.

After struggling early in training camp, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is once again receiving some work with the first team offense making this week’s game very important in determining the TE fantasy owners want from the Buccaneers. Cameron Brate was a hot name a couple of weeks ago but has had a few drops lately allowing the more athletic Seferian-Jenkins back into the race for the #1 TE job. With a current ADP as the 20th TE selected, Seferian-Jenkins could make a statement with a strong game this week. The 6’ 5”, 260-pound Seferian-Jenkins has the upside to reach low end TE1 production if he can continue to show the coaching staff he is a reliable option in the passing game. Let’s keep a close eye on on this competition as there is fantasy value in whichever TE secures the starting role.

Finally, I will mention a preseason situation that I have been salivating to watch unfold and may finally get to see it this week. With a tip of the cap to my colleague and co-host on the ‘Fantasy Football Feeding Frenzy’ podcast (Thursday night from 7-8 PM EST on Blog Talk Radio) Gary Davenport I give you TE Jared Cook of the Green Bay Packers.

It appears that Aaron Rodgers will make his preseason debut this week and will finally get the chance to throw the rock to Cook. Yes, I have been drinking the Cook flavored Kool-Aid since Green Bay signed the former Titans and Rams TE. To me he is the seam-splitting option that Rodgers has lacked in the offense since Jermichael Finley left town. Cook has teased us at times over the years but has never played with a quality QB and he could easily outperform his current ADP as the 22nd TE being drafted.

Of course, Cook could also continue to underperform and somewhere Mr. Davenport is nodding his head and smiling. I’m keeping a close eye on how many times Rodgers utilizes his new TE toy this week.

That’s it folks. Hopefully some of these players mentioned have piqued your interest in week three of the preseason and will make the games more enjoyable and informative to watch.

Let’s face it. Week four will be a snore-fest as starters around the league take the week off in preparation for the start of the season.

About Wally Spurlin

Wally Spurlin is a Fantasy Football Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer Association (FSWA). Spurlin’s work has appeared in print publications, including the FSWA award winning 2014 USA Today Fantasy Football magazine as well as the 2015 edition. Wally is also a weekly co-host on the Fantasy Football Feeding Frenzy pod cast on Fantasy Sharks Radio at Blog Talk Radio.Follow him on Twitter @WaltonSpurlin