Week 3 of the preseason was overshadowed by Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was “dress rehearsal week,” which means many fantasy-relevant players saw the field. Nevertheless, most of those players played limited snaps against vanilla defenses, so you shouldn’t overreact too much. But if you watch closely, preseason play can raise red flags for certain players and lower red flags for others. Here’s my take on who stood out, who slipped up, and who has sleeper potential.
These are mid-to-high draft picks who looked good this week. They didn’t have huge stats since they had limited playing time, but they showed something that should make you take notice.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Cook only got two carries against Arizona on Saturday, but the second one was a highlight-worthy 85-yard touchdown. On that play, he made a nifty move in the backfield, which caused defensive end Rodney Gunter to completely miss the tackle without even touching him. Then, Cook burst downfield, splitting the last two defenders before they could get him. Safety D.J. Swearinger did get his hands on Cook’s ankles, but Cook was able to maintain his balance and hit his second gear. The play emphasized the game-breaking ability that Cook has flashed at times, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to make those plays as long as he stays on the field. Of course, injuries have been Cook’s biggest issue over his two-year career, so there’s certainly risk if you choose to draft him in the second round. Nevertheless, he is a locked-in RB1 with top-5 upside when he’s healthy, so he’s as good a pick as any at his current draft price. If you’re worried about injury, then I would advise handcuffing Cook with rookie Alexander Mattison, who has looked like a capable backup throughout the preseason.
Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
In limited action against San Francisco, Williams carried the ball once for 2 yards and also caught three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was the highlight of the night, as Patrick Mahomes hit Williams in stride down the sideline for the 62-yard score. Williams unsurprisingly beat defensive end Solomon Thomas on the wheel route, but after he caught the ball, he was able to cut back inside and avoid safety Jaquiski Tartt’s tackle attempt. Once he was in the open field, linebacker Kwon Alexander nearly caught up to him, but Williams turned on the jets and took it to the house. Williams looked every bit as good as he did during his epic string of games during the fantasy playoffs last season, and it appears he has gotten past the hamstring injury that was bothering him in training camp. Playing for the Chiefs is obviously a big part of his appeal, but I also think people are underrating Williams as a player. He’s not the most powerful running back in the world, but he has the kind of speed, vision, and receiving prowess that makes him an ideal fit for Andy Reid’s offense. I do expect rookie Darwin Thompson to work himself into a meaningful role, but Williams is still well worth a third-round pick if you can get him there.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Michel carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards in three drives against Carolina, but his stat line would have looked much better if holding penalties hadn’t shortened two of his runs, including an impressive 30-yard gain. On that play, he cut to the right to find some open space, cut to the left to avoid safety Tre Boston’s diving tackle attempt, and then cut back to the right to avoid linebacker Shaq Thompson before finally getting tackled. He showed phenomenal quickness and decisiveness on the run, which was unfortunately shortened due to an unnecessary downfield hold by Jakobi Meyers. Michel also gained three first downs in short-yardage situations, including a 4-yard gain when he managed to weave around defensive giants Dontari Poe and Luke Kuechly. If there is any knock on Michel in this game, it’s that he failed to score from the 1-yard line, and fullback James Develin scored on the next play — a familiar sight for anyone who rostered Michel last year. Develin will most likely continue to vulture some touchdowns in the regular season, but you shouldn’t let that turn you off from Michel. He’s much healthier than he was at this point last season, and he looked sharp in his first preseason action. If people’s fear of New England running backs causes Michel to fall past Pick 40, you should absolutely scoop him up.