Week 3 of the NFL preseason is about as real as it gets until the regular season begins. Even if the outcome doesn’t matter, we still get to see the starting units play roughly a half together. Here are 10 things we learned during this final “dress rehearsal.”
10. Rob Kelley Emerges In Washington Backfield
Washington already figured to be one of the worst RB committees in the NFL prior to Matt Jones injuring his shoulder in Week 2 of the preseason. Somebody had to step up and it’s been “Fat Rob,” as his teammates call him. Kelley turned 12 carries into 51 yards in Week 3, and now has a real opportunity to be the short-yardage/goal-line back even when Jones is healthy. If Jones isn’t ready to go by Week 1, Kelley likely would draw the start. The arrow’s clearly pointing up here.
9. Melvin Gordon Has Figured It Out
Gordon was a monster bust last season in his rookie year, but all indications this preseason are that he’s poised to turn things around. Gordon turned another small workload into a big preseason game — four carries for 51 yards and a TD (plus a five-yard catch). This now makes 130 total yards on just 15 touches for Gordon, resulting in two trips to the end zone. Gordon’s reputation from last year is still wrongfully hurting his value in 2016.
8. Houston’s Rookie WR’s Are Legit
We know about DeAndre Hopkins, but Will Fuller and Braxton Miller came into 2016 as unknowns. In a small sample size, the rookie receivers have been hauling in almost everything from Brock Osweiler and looked spectacular in Week 3. Fuller, who had three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, is going to start opposite Hopkins and be a real threat on the outside. If he can improve his hands (he dropped another deep pass in Week 3), Fuller has monster fantasy potential. Meanwhile, Miller has quietly won the slot receiver position. He snagged three passes for 29 yards and should have a consistent role in Houston’s offense. Fuller is the better fantasy option due to his big play potential, though.
7. Trevor Siemian Is Denver’s Starting QB
Siemian did what he had to do in Week 3 — 10/17, 122 YDS, TD, INT. Nothing fancy at all, but enough to win the starting job. It appears Paxton Lynch will be the backup, while Sanchez (who didn’t even play in Week 3) will either be traded or cut. Although Siemian will rarely be a great fantasy option, he did prove something important to us this week. I’ve been very low on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders heading into this season, but they combined for seven catches for 108 yards with Siemian starting the game. There could be some value here based on matchups.
6. Devin Funchess Looks to Be Carolina’s No. 1 WR
The Panthers are very happy to have Kelvin Benjamin back this season, and he will certainly have a big role in the offense. But the focal point in the passing game seems like it’s going to be Funchess — five catches for 49 yards on 10 targets in Week 3. Benjamin still chipped in with three catches for 27 yards, but the word out of camp is that this distribution was no fluke. Funchess will make for a great early-season value and is looking like the better play long-term this season in my opinion.
5. Donte Moncrief Looking Like Indianpolis’ No. 1 WR
The Colts are running a new offense this season which should really help Andrew Luck use the tools that make him one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the offensive line isn’t very good, which has led to quick decisions for Luck. His guy in those situations has been Moncrief — the only WR to play every first-team snap for Indy in Week 3 (and turned it into six grabs for 58 yards). T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett combined for six catches for 87 yards — and will certainly be valuable pieces of the offense — but Moncrief looks like the guy to target here.
4. Josh Gordon Is Still Really Really Good
We hadn’t seen Gordon since 2014 but it didn’t take him long to remind us why we continue to praise his on the field abilities. In a short stint with the first-team, Gordon snagged a pair of bombs for 87 yards, one of them good for a touchdown from RG3. It’s too bad we have to wait until Week 5 to see this duo in action, but this brief sample is all we needed to determine it is indeed legit. Let’s just hope Gordon can stay on the field once he gets there.
3. Arian Foster Is Miami’s Top RB
I’m not suggesting you should invest heavily in the Miami backfield this season because it’s been pretty bad so far. But I can tell you if I have to pick between them, Arian Foster will be the guy over Jay Ajayi. Foster turned seven touches into 30 yards and a touchdown, while Ajayi managed 23 yards on nine touches. As long as he’s healthy Foster should be the lead dog here, but be cautious.
2. Don’t Sleep On Christine Michael
This is finally going to be the season Michael is a contributor. The ultra-talented RB is in his third stint with Seattle, and this time it feels like he’s going to stick. Thomas Rawls is the starter, but he is still coming off a serious injury and has never been the lead back for a full season. Michael gained 58 yards on just seven carries in Week 3, putting his preseason totals at 157 yards on 24 carries. At the minimum Michael is threatening to split first-team reps with Rawls. My guess is Michael outperforms Rawls early and is the starter by October.
1. Ezekiel Elliott Is Real, And Gets A Value Boost
We finally got to see Elliott in action and he lived up to the hype, carrying the ball seven times for 48 yards. Obviously, this wasn’t the headline from this game for Dallas. Tony Romo went down with a back injury that will cost him 6-10 weeks. And you thought Dak Prescott was a hot name last week? We’ll get to what this means for the Dallas passing game in a “Next Man Up” that focuses strictly on Prescott. But when it comes to Elliott, having the rookie QB at the helm should only help his value early in the season. Elliott should be worth his hefty price tag.
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