2023 Preseason Fantasy Game Reviews: Week 3


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2023 Preseason Fantasy Game Reviews: Week 3

Preseason football is wrapping up this week, and the fantasy season is right around the corner.

I’m a big believer that coaches definitely do not always tell us the truth, but they do let us know how they feel about certain players based on their usage. It’s up to us to make sense of that information. This includes the preseason! It’s a new year, and every little edge matters when we’re rounding out projections for late August and early September drafts.

Preseason games are the one time of year when we can pause sifting through beat-writer feeds and have games and data to analyze. It may be a small sample, but hey, if you want larger sample sizes – go watch baseball. At the end of the day, small samples are mostly all we have in the NFL.

This article is intended to review preseason action, usage, and how players performed.

Preseason Review Week 3


  • Kenny Pickett, Steelers starters sharp again | Total preseason RB snaps split 16 to 12 in favor of Harris over Warren

  • Anthony Richardson plays first half | Up and down passing but mobility on full display

  • Purdy closes out this preseason with 9-of-14 passing for 138 yards and a rushing TD. Purdy’s top-two targets were Deebo Samuel (6 targets) and Brandon Aiyuk (4). George Kittle was targeted once.

  • On 38 preseason snaps (with Lawrence), the Jaguars RBs have split snaps 26 to 10 in favor of Travis Etienne (68% snap rate) over Tank Bigsby

  • Khalil Herbert starts | rookie Roschon Johnson mixes in on third-downs

  • Trevor Lawrence has peppered Calvin Ridley with five targets (5/71) on his 16 pass attempts followed by Christian Kirk (4 targets | 3/20/1 receiving)

  • On Aaron Rodgers’ nine throws, he targeted Garrett Wilson 4 times (including penalties)

  • James Cook gets great usage again | but, Damien Harris cashes in short TD

  • Rachaad White gears up for Week 1, Ke’Shawn Vaughn works as RB2

  • Dameon Pierce continues to trend up

Thursday, 8/24 Games

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons


The Steelers' first-team offense was legitimately surgical this preseason, scoring 4 TDs on all four drives.

Kenny Pickett has been incredibly sharp and showed improved arm strength on boundary throws to the sidelines on two dimes to Diontae Johnson and George Pickens on the opening drive.

Johnson is a player I’m targeting at a discounted price. His ADP on Sleeper is WR35. I have him ranked WR24.

Najee Harris finally got some extended run in this game, and while it was against the Falcons' backups, Harris does seem to have his usual burst and nimbleness back.

Through three preseason games with Pickett on the field (four drives), the Steelers RB snaps have been split 16 to 12 in favor of Harris.

Najee is a player I have always been higher on because of his bell cow skillset, but I continue to see no reason for the Steelers to force Harris into a massive role. Warren has a different gear that Najee can’t get to, and there is nothing wrong with that. OC Matt Canada said that Najee is the clear starter this week, but their preseason usage suggests a continued 60/40 split, and Warren has done nothing but look insanely explosive.


All Falcons starters rested

Atlanta started Taylor Heinicke, but he got crunched by TJ Watt on the first drive and did not return.

Ridder, Robinson, London, and Pitts were chilling on the sidelines.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts


All Eagles starters rested

As expected, HC Nick Sirianni rested all of his key starters.

This includes all four of their RBs.

My best guess right now is that D’Andre Swift is the “1A” and Gainwell/Penny will split the remaining early-down/red-zone work until someone breaks out. All of these backs are cheap enough and can make sense in any roster build as RB3/4 pieces. Joe Dolan and I both agree that, if everything breaks right, Swift has the most upside by far.

However, my strategy has been to target any of the Eagles RBs when they fall past ADP – because at least one will.


The Colts played Anthony Richardson for the entire first half (six drives) and had three scoring drives sandwiched in between three 3 and outs.

Unlike in Week 1 of the preseason, rookie WR Josh Downs started and played full-time in the slot with Richardson. Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce were the two boundary WRs in 2-TE formations.

Richardson only completed 6-of-17 for 78 yards, but added 5/38 rushing in the half. Almost all of Richardson’s incompletions came over the middle. Processing and timing over the middle of the field takes time and reps, so it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise to see some early struggles. The Colts should have tried more timing and rhythm RPOs to Pittman.

Richardson has extreme confidence on the run. HC Shane Steichen called a number of zone-read options, one of which Richardson popped for an easy 15-yard gain. He also had a Houdini-like sack escape on one 3rd and 11 to keep the Colts in field goal range on their final scoring drive.

TE Jelani Woods (hamstring) has not been able to practice for the entirety of August, but both Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson are healthy and played on Thursday night.

On 25 preseason pass attempts, Richardson’s lead target is Pittman (8), followed by TE Kylen Granson (5) and then Alec Pierce (4).

Friday, 8/25 Games

Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers


All Lions starters rested

For the second-straight week, HC Dan Campbell did not play any of his key starters.


Veterans that DNPMiles Sanders (groin) / DJ Chark (hamstring)

Bryce Young and the Panthers offense played two drives against the Lions backups and cashed in two scoring drives. It was easily the best Carolina looked all preseason. Young finished 7-of-12 for 73 yards and 1 TD.

While DJ Chark sat out with what has been reported as a minor hamstring injury, veteran Adam Thielen and rookie Jonathan Mingo operated as Young’s top-two wideouts. Thielen and Young connected on their second drive, tallying 4/45/1 through the air.

Mingo (17 snaps) led the WRs in snaps, but only saw two targets.

New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans


HC Bill Belichick took no risks and rested half of his team on Friday night.


All key Titans starters rested

Once again, Malik Willis played the entire game. He has been ahead of Levis as the QB2 all summer. Barring disaster, Will Levis is not playing in 2023. Ryan Tannehill remains a key target in SuperFlex.

Tyjae Spears looks ready for NFL Sunday’s after a terrific showing this preseason. Spears has excellent contingent upside if Derrick Henry gets hurt and he might already be good enough to force the Titans staff to give him a legitimate role in the offense.

Spears tallied 137 scrimmage yards on 26 touches and a TD this preseason.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers


All key Chargers rested

Just like his mentor Sean McVay, Chargers HC Brandon Staley does not believe in playing starters in the preseason.

Joshua Kelley ripped a 75-yard TD and is penciled in as the Chargers RB2 behind Austin Ekeler. L.A. could definitely sign a veteran after rosters are cut from 90- to 53-man next week.


Veterans that DNPChristian McCaffrey

The 49ers first-team offense played on the first two drives, and should have cashed in two TDs had it not been for a Jordan Mason fumble at the goal-line on the first drive.

Purdy closes out this preseason with 9-of-14 passing for 138 yards and a rushing TD. Purdy’s top-two targets were Deebo Samuel (6 targets) and Brandon Aiyuk (4). George Kittle was targeted once.

Saturday, 8/26 Games

Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears


Josh Allen played one drive (13 snaps) with James Cook on the field for the first nine plays until Damien Harris checked in when they got into the red-zone and cashed in a short TD.

On the plus side, Cook has played on 23-of-29 snaps with Allen on the field this preseason (79% snap rate) but Harris and/or Latavius Murray remain serious threats to Cook’s TD upside.

While Dawson Knox did not play last week, he and Kincaid split snaps 9 to 7 in favor of Knox this week.

Gabe Davis (3 targets) and Stefon Diggs (2) both got involved early along with Deonte Harty (2 targets), who has won the Bills slot receiver job over Trent Sherfield and Khalil Shakir.


Veterans that DNPChase Claypool

Justin Fields and the Bears first-team offense played three drives, the first two ended quickly with punts.

Khalil Herbert got the start and played 7 snaps, then was put on ice. Rookie Roschon Johnson has won the third-down/passing-down back job as he came into the game on both third-downs on the first and second drive.

Veteran RB D’Onta Foreman didn’t get onto the field until the third drive.

DJ Moore ripped another big play on a horrible tackling job by the Bills. Moore was wide open on the play and Fields nearly put the ball in the turf on a short throw.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers


HC Pete Carroll rested all of his key starters:


Veterans that DNPAaron Jones (veteran rest) / Romeo Doubs (hamstring)

Jordan Love and the Packers first-team offense played 28 snaps (three drives) vs. Seattle, bringing their preseason snap total to 57 across three games. That’s roughly a full game’s worth of plays.

Romeo Doubs (hamstring) did not play, so Christian Watson (28), Jayden Reed (21), and Malik Heath (21) were the top WRs in snaps while TE Luke Musgrave (27 snaps) continued being a full-time player.

Love found Watson on this gorgeous back shoulder fade for a TD. Love’s accuracy seems to come and go but his best throws are all dimes. You just have to live with the wild throws at times. Love missed Watson on what should have been a walk-in TD on an underthrown deep ball to end the first quarter just before their eventual TD connection.

This preseason, Musgrave, Watson, and Reed have all seen six targets apiece from Love (out of 33 attempts). Love has shown more as a scrambler, too, adding 5/32 rushing total.

Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs


Veterans that DNP – Nick Chubb

The Browns starters played four drives (two punts | two TDs) as Deshaun Watson found all four of his top receivers at least once – Cooper, Moore, Peoples-Jones, and Njoku. Cooper and Watson connected on a 53-yard splash play as the coverage broke down and Njoku had a nice TD grab.

On Watson’s 20 snaps, these were the WR/TE snap counts:

  • Njoku (20)

  • Peoples-Jones (19)

  • Cooper (15)

  • Moore (12)

Moore did work in one 2-WR set, but he is mainly a slot-only receiver right now. The good news is that Moore was Watson’s lead target (4) on 13 attempts this preseason.


Veterans that DNP – Patrick Mahomes / Travis Kelce

HC Andy Reid played a handful of his starters on the first drive – WRs Skyy Moore (6), Richie James (5), Justin Watson (5) while RBs Pacheco, Edwards-Helaire, and McKinnon each played two snaps.

This backfield looks like a full-blown rotation right now. CEH “started” this game but Pacheco should be the “1A” by Week 1. McKinnon will be the third-down and passing-down back while CEH will be the backup to both Pacheco and McKinnon’s roles.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Minnesota Vikings

Both teams rested all of their key players ahead of Week 1:

Cardinals RB2 Keaontay Ingram was the starter for the second straight week while Emari Demarcado was the second in rotation and vet Corey Clement was RB3.

Vikings RB2 Ty Chandler has won the backup job and rested this week. Minnesota could still sign a free agent RB because Kene Nwangwu (undisclosed injury) has missed a ton of practice time while Dewayne McBride (8/37/1 rushing) has been clearly behind Chandler.

New York Jets vs. New York Giants


Veterans that DNPBreece Hall / Dalvin Cook / Allen Lazard

Aaron Rodgers made his debut with the Jets’ and opened up the first drive by hitting Garrett Wilson twice and Tyler Conklin once, but the play to Conklin got called back due to a penalty.

The Jets scored on their second drive on this vintage Rodgers back shoulder throw to the adjusting Wilson. On Rodgers’ nine throws, he targeted Wilson 4 times (including penalties). This duo is going to score a lot of fantasy points.

After Corey Davis’ sudden retirement, the Jets suddenly have sketchy depth behind Allen Lazard. Veteran addition Mecole Hardman suffered a finger injury in the game, but should be fine. Randall Cobb was the Jets WR3 by snaps (7) after Wilson (10) and Hardman (8). This is all the more reason to draft Garrett Wilson.


Giants rested all key starters

The Giants only played Jalin Hyatt (7) and Sterling Shepard (8) a handful of snaps and rested Week 1 starters.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Washington Commanders

Both the Bengals and Commanders rested all of their key starters:

Fantasy Points’ guy Chris Rodriguez closed out a strong preseason with 17/122 rushing in three games. Rodriguez would be heavily involved on early-downs if Brian Robinson or Antonio Gibson were to miss time this season.

While Chris Evans (undisclosed injury) did not play, he has reportedly won the third down job. Trayveon Williams (ankle) has missed multiple weeks while Chase Brown has not found any running room on the ground behind the Bengals backup offensive line.

Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars


Veterans that DNPJaylen Waddle (abdomen) / Jeff Wilson (undisclosed injury)

With RBs Jeff Wilson (undisclosed) out and rookie Devon Achane (shoulder) out for a few weeks, Raheem Mostert got the start with Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins first team.

Tua hit Tyreek Hill for a huge gain on the first play of the game but the drive collapsed on the second play after a bad snap.

The second drive stalled after a long run from Salvon Ahmed, who continued his strong preseason.

My main takeaway from Miami this preseason is that Durham Smythe is their clear every-down TE, playing on 100% of the snaps with Tua in two games.


The Jaguars marched right down the field on their opening possession, mostly led by the ground game against the Christian Wilkins-less Dolphins front-seven. Travis Etienne and Tank Bigsby split snaps, however, Bigsby lost a fumble right at the goal-line as he tried to punch in a TD.

I would not count Bigsby’s fumble against him too much because he’s been terrific this preseason, running with great patience and burst. Etienne continues to look as explosive as he did back in college with his previous foot injury another year behind him. This was always going to wind up being some sort of committee – whether it’s 70/30 or 55/45 is the question.

On the following drive, Etienne cashed in a two-yard TD.

On 38 preseason snaps (with Lawrence), the Jaguars RBs have split snaps 26 to 10 in favor of Etienne (68% snap rate) over Bigsby.

Trevor Lawrence has peppered Calvin Ridley with five targets (5/71) on his 16 pass attempts followed by Christian Kirk (4 targets | 3/20/1 receiving).

D’Ernest Johnson worked in as the RB3 ahead of Ja’Mycal Hasty as Johnson appears to have won the job as the third RB behind Etienne/Bigsby.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


The Ravens rested half of their team on Saturday:

JK Dobbins of course did not play, Gus Edwards did not play for the second straight week, and Justice Hill got rest as well.


Veterans that DNPMike Evans (rest) / Chase Edmonds (undisclosed injury)

Baker Mayfield and the Bucs’ first team offense played two drives, the first of which ended in a punt.

The second drive was crisp as Mayfield and Godwin connected for 4/30/1 on two drives of work against the Ravens backups. Mayfield has reportedly struggled with interceptions in practice, but he’s looked pretty sharp this preseason. His decision-making has been solid and his accuracy hasn’t been bad. OC Dave Canales has done a nice job scheming quick window throws and that was on display with the first reads to Godwin on Saturday.

We also got our first extended look at Rachaad White as he gears up for Week 1. White stayed on the field for a third drive with backup QB Kyle Trask and White had multiple strong runs of 9, 9, and 7 yards. White’s passing down ability is the main reason I’m buying for fantasy, but it’s clear that he is going to be the guy on early-downs.

While Chase Edmonds (undisclosed injury) sat, Ke’Shawn Vaughn rotated in as the RB2 behind White. Then rookie Sean Tucker came in as the RB3. Tucker would have likely gone in the 4th/5th round of the draft had it not been for a heart issue and, while he will make the team, Tucker is likely behind both Vaughn and Edmonds as the RB4 here.

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Raiders and Cowboys both rested all of their key starters as they head into Opening Day.

For now, it appears that Rico Dowdle has won the Cowboys RB2 job over Malik Davis. While Dowdle and rookie Deuce Vaughn rested, Davis played well into the second half. I still think there is a good chance that we’ll see Dallas dip into the veteran RB market in the next few days.

Raiders RB Zamir White has continued to not show much burst, taking his 26 preseason carries for just 86 yards (3.3 YPC) with one gain of 10+ yards. Josh Jacobs is going to get as many touches as he can handle this season. White is not a serious threat.

Las Angeles Rams vs. Denver Broncos

Both the Rams and Broncos rested all of their key starters ahead of Week 1.

The Rams struggled offensively as Stetson Bennett threw two INTs on two of his first 3 drives.

The Broncos dominated (led by a big game from Albert O!?!) and we finally got a look at Marvin Mimsdeep ball skills as he reeled in a bomb.

RB Jaleel McLaughlin has been talked up among Denver beats as a potential RB3 behind Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine all August and he had a strong showing (10/48/1 rushing | 4/13 receiving) to likely cement his position on the roster.

With Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) iffy to play Week 1, Mims may find himself as a starter alongside Courtland Sutton.

Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel mentioned that Jeudy is still without a timeline for return and could be a candidate for the PUP list. This is following an earlier report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Jeudy will miss “several weeks.” Hamstring injuries typically take weeks to rehab – not months – so there is something up here. We have sunk Jeudy in our rankings and bumped up Sutton and Mims correspondingly.

Sunday, 8/27

Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints


C.J. Stroud and the Texans starters played two drives against the Saints and were on the field for nine snaps total.

Once again, Robert Woods (9) and Nico Collins (9) were Stroud’s top two wideouts with Tank Dell (4) and Noah Brown (3) mixing in the slot. John Metchie (undisclosed) did not play. Nico Collins caught a short TD catch at the end of the second drive.

The big story this preseason is that Dameon Pierce is officially a bell cow RB. Last year, the old coaching staff stuck him in a rotation with dusty RBs Rex Burkhead and Royce Freeman.

Pierce ranked 14th in overall snap rate (63%), 20th in snap rate in the red-zone (62%), and 35th in routes run per game (12.1) as a rookie, all figures that look very likely to go up this season.

On Stroud’s 26 snaps over the last two games, Pierce has been on the field for 23 of them – implying an 89% snap rate.

There is no way that Pierce gets that insane level of usage during the season. But, with this new coaching staff led by OC Bobby Slowik, it’s clear that Pierce’s role is going to increase this season. Pierce not coming off of the field on third-downs or in obvious passing situations is huge for his fantasy stock.


All key starters rested

While all of the Saints starters did not play, we did get a long look at rookie RB Kendre Miller but he struggled to find running room – finishing with 11 touches for 24 yards.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.