If the NFL season is a play, Week 3 of the preseason is its dress rehearsal. And while the understudies have carried much of the preseason workload to this point, most of the league’s highest profile performers finally took center stage this weekend for last minute tune-ups before the games start counting.
That’s about as far as I can take this metaphor, but you get the point.
Drawing conclusions from preseason play is a risky proposition. Vanilla game plans and sparing usage of starters abound during the exhibition games that are largely meaningless in the long run. But if any of the preseason tilts can be trusted to predict regular season production, it’s the third one, and this weekend’s set of games provided plenty of information on the roles certain players will play for their respective teams.
Here are just a few players that saw their stock rise in preseason Week 3, as well as some who took hits in value.
On the rise
Dede Westbrook — Wide receiver — Jacksonville Jaguars
Westbrook was pegged as a late round sleeper coming into fantasy draft season, but his first preseason action playing with quarterback Nick Foles quickly blew that thought out of the water.
Foles played sparingly in the game, only attempting 10 passes before ceding to the Jaguars backups, but he targeted Westbrook on seven of those 10 throws, connecting on four for 29 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Westbrook was the only wide receiver who saw any attention from Foles in the game, and looks to have become an early favorite for the brand new Jacksonville quarterback.
Particularly in PPR leagues, Westbrook projects as a potential WR2 with upside, though he can currently be drafted in the back end of the eighth round. Grab him over similarly rated receivers like Dante Pettis and Marvin Jones, and reap the rewards.
Dalvin Cook — Running back — Minnesota Vikings
Cook didn’t play much in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, but he only needed two carries to make an impression.
In the Vikings’ second series of the contest, Cook took a handoff from Kirk Cousins toward the left side of the field, cut it back to the right when nothing seemed open and split a pair of Cardinals defenders to rumble for an 85-yard touchdown. Though it was the last action he would see in the game, Cook managed to show off his vision, strength and speed in a single play.
He was already getting drafted in the early to mid-second round, but Cook’s big play is likely to give him a bump up to the back end of the first in leagues still yet to draft. If he can stay healthy, he just might be worth it.
Derrius Guice — Running back — Washington Redskins
Talent was never the issue with Guice, but until Thursday it was unclear how well he had recovered from an ACL tear he suffered in last year’s preseason. The second-year running back out of LSU proved his health in Thursday’s game against the Falcons.
Guice carried the ball 11 times, gaining 44 yards in the process and catching a pass for four yards. And while his efficiency left some to be desired, he appeared ready to take on a full workload for the Redskins by the start of the year.
With injury risk no longer as prominent an issue for Guice, he should provide good value as a potential bell cow running back available in the mid to late sixth round.
On the decline
Cam Newton — Quarterback — Carolina Panthers
Injury risk is the top reason NFL coaches have for sitting star players during the preseason, and Newton’s unfortunate foot sprain in Thursday night’s game against the Panthers was the latest reminder of why many teams opt to rest their starters through the majority of the four exhibition games.
Newton only played a couple of series for the Panthers, but his last drop back resulted in a sack and a mid-grade foot sprain for the former Auburn quarterback who will likely now sit out the remainder of the offseason and could even miss the team’s Week 1 game.
Newton’s running ability gives him more upside than most quarterbacks, but if he isn’t at 100%, he’s not going to pay off his current draft position in the eighth round.
James White — Running back — New England Patriots
White enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, finishing as a top 10 running back in PPR leagues and was one of Tom Brady’s favorite safety valves throughout the year. But if Thursday night’s game against the Panthers was any indication, the Patriots backfield is going to be a bit more crowded this season.
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris and James Develin all saw touches while Brady was on the field in the first half, but White did not see any of the ball. What’s worse, New England wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught a few short passes from Brady behind the line of scrimmage — plays that were White’s bread and butter last year in his most successful season as a pro.
White won’t get shut out in most games this season, but he seems destined for a decrease in workload at the very least. You could do better for value in the early sixth round.
Every Miami Dolphin
Man oh man was Miami’s Thursday night tilt against Jacksonville ugly.
Though the Dolphins would go on to win the game, the starting unit struggled heavily in the opening half. Presumed starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was inaccurate whenever he wasn’t running for his life, while running back Kalen Ballage managed just 17 yards on his 12 carries. Woof.
Fellow running back Kenyan Drake is still rehabbing a foot injury, and hasn’t seen any of the field this preseason. The Dolphins offense is expected by most to be a disaster this season, and I wouldn’t be happy owning any Miami players if I could avoid it.