Fantasy Attack: 32 Players to Watch this week

Preseason fantasy action is upon us!

by Lead Fantasy writer Steve Cook | @SteveCook84 | Mail@3PSMag.com

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We’re all happy football is back. But let’s be honest. It can be tough to get excited for some of these preseason games. The score doesn’t matter. The top stars don’t play very much. The quality usually isn’t good. These games are important to the teams in order to get ready, but they can also result in season-changing injuries.

With all that being said, preseason is something fantasy football players need to keep track of. You need to be smart about it, of course. You can’t assume that the guy going for 100 yards in Preseason Week 4 is going to do anything of note in the regular season. They probably won’t. What you need to watch, more often than not, is the young players. Guys coming off of injuries. Players adjusting to new teams. Preseason can help you figure out which guys are getting drafted too early, and who you can target in later rounds as sleepers.

Thirty-two NFL teams play this week. Here are thirty-two players to keep an eye on. They may make or break your fantasy season. They could be great dynasty league picks, or keeper selections. They might not be, but you’ll have a better idea after watching them in action.

 

Thursday Games
Carolina at Buffalo (7 PM ET)

Panther To Watch: D.J. Moore
We’ve been saying for years that Cam Newton needs somebody to throw the ball to. The Panthers used their first round pick on Moore, the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2017. When you can get noticed while playing football at Maryland, that’s impressive. I took him in my dynasty league’s rookie draft and am hoping he becomes the WR1 that Kelvin Benjamin, who is now on the Bills talking smack about Cam, never really did.

Bill To Watch: Josh Allen
For a minute there, everybody got all crazy excited about Allen, a Wyoming product that was at the top of Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft. It felt like Mel stopped paying attention to Allen in 2016, as his 2017 season wasn’t nearly as successful. The hype died off a little bit, but he still went seventh overall to Buffalo, a franchise still looking for Jim Kelly’s replacement. He’ll be the starter eventually. Nobody thinks A.J. McCarron or Nathan Peterman will be starting at the end of the season. If Allen has a strong preseason, he could get the job in Week 1. If not, he’ll get it in the second half of the season when the wheels fall off the Buffalo Bills wagon.

Chicago at Cincinnati (7 PM ET)

Bear To Watch: Anthony Miller
Miller is getting all kinds of hype from Bears fans as a slot receiver. It should be noted that Bears fans give all sorts of people hype. Miller did not appear in the Hall of Fame game, which would seem troubling except the Bears didn’t have a lot of people in that game. Also, they made a point of limiting Tarik Cohen during last season’s preseason, and he ended up being one of their biggest weapons earlier in the season. If he plays against the Bengals, keep an eye on him.

Bengal To Watch: John Ross
We didn’t get to see a lot of John Ross in 2017. The Bengals took him super-high in that year’s draft & had high expectations for him as a WR2 across from A.J. Green with lightning speed, but that didn’t pan out in his rookie season. He got little playing time, struggled when he was on the field, and had injuries to his knee & shoulder somehow. Ross was known as being injury-prone when the Bengals drafted him, as he needed a medical redshirt year after his sophomore season at Washington. With Brandon LaFell getting cut this week, Ross needs to show something this week to prove to Bengals fans that he’s the answer to Andy Dalton’s WR2 prayers.

Tampa Bay at Miami (7 PM ET)

Buccaneer To Watch: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jameis Winston will be out for the first three games of the season. If you’re absolutely in love with Famous Jameis & the potential of the Tampa offense, you might as well take a look at Ryan, as he’ll likely be the guy starting the first three games. The 35 year old should handle it fine. There will certainly be worse options during the first three weeks of the season.

Dolphin To Watch: DeVante Parker
Jarvis Landry out of the mix means that somebody has to step up in Miami for…Ryan Tannehill? He’s still there? Good God. Anyway, somebody needs to be the WR1 for this sh*tshow, and for years we’ve been believing it’ll be DeVante Parker. He’s been getting drafted ahead of Landry for some time now, and now that Landry is gone it should be clear. Right? Right? No. Parker’s struggled to reach his potential in his first couple of years, and word is he’s having a poor training camp. See if he does something here.

Cleveland at NY Giants (7 PM ET, NFL Network)

Brown To Watch: Nick Chubb
The Browns’ backfield is a bit crowded right now with guys like Carlos Hyde & Duke Johnson Jr., but Chubb is the back with most upside by a country mile. Cleveland took him in the second round this year, and if they’re smart they’ll let him keep developing into a beast. Of course, they’re not smart, so who knows how it’ll go.

Giant To Watch: Saquon Barkley
This guy is already being crowned as King of All Running Backs before taking a snap. Call me crazy, but I want to see him take a snap before crowning him. Certainly, against the Browns, he will have room to run.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (7 PM ET)

Steeler To Watch: James Conner
We all know that Le’Veon Bell’s backup is going to see some time at some point in the season. All of them will see time in the preseason because he won’t be around for it. Conner, the third round pick out of Pitt in 2017, is a fan favorite due to his local status and the fact that he kicked cancer’s ass & came back stronger in college. If I wasn’t a Bengals/Louisville fan he would be one of my favorite players. Reports out of training camp say he’s come in leaner & meaner & is impressive in his effort. A strong showing against whichever Eagles play on Thursday night could bump his stock up as a handcuff pick.

Eagle To Watch: Nate Sudfeld
With Nick Foles banged up & Carson Wentz still not ready to go, Sudfeld will be seeing most of the action at QB for the Eagles this preseason. It’s a chance to get noticed, and let’s face it, a lot of teams still need some help at QB1 or QB2.

New Orleans at Jacksonville (7 PM ET)

Saint To Watch: Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn has always been tough to take seriously during his NFL career. The Dolphins drafted him way above his projection in 2007 & he’s more known for dropping passes than anything else. That all being said, he’s with the New Orleans Saints now & developed a good connection with Drew Brees last year. People will be reticent to draft him, but he’ll get good points some weeks.

Jaguar To Watch: Keelan Cole
Cole was an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky Wesleyan that took everybody by surprise & became one of the Jaguars’ most dangerous weapons last year. The Jags are crowded at WR & Donte Moncrief makes it even more so, but Cole should be able to stake out a solid spot on the team.

Washington at New England (7:30 PM ET)

Washingtonian To Watch: Derrius Guice
Guice has won over D.C. fans quickly with his personality & should be just as pleasing on the field as he is off of it. He’s getting all the hype coming out of training camp. His quarterback Alex Smith says that he doesn’t have a weakness in his game. We’ll find out soon enough, but maybe not in the preseason. The Patriots are known even more than most teams for not showing anything in these games.

Patriot To Watch: Rex Burkhead
There’s a lot of fantasy points to be found in the Patriots’ backfield. I would assume there will be more to found in years ahead as Tom Brady gets older & can’t throw the ball as far. The question is who will get those carries & yards. It usually changes by the week. Many people feel like Burkhead will be the guy to fill that void. Is it because he’s white & that’s how New England rolls? We’ll find out soon enough.

LA Rams at Baltimore (7:30 PM ET)

Ram To Watch: Brandin Cooks
Cooks is going to have a spotlight on him this season thanks to a contract that many people think a wide receiver that’s been on three teams in three seasons doesn’t really merit. He’s gone over 1,000 yards his last three seasons & has a great opportunity in LA with a high-powered offense. You’ll draft him as a WR1, and early on we’ll know if it was worth it.

Raven To Watch: Lamar Jackson
Lamar will certainly be the most fun player to watch in this game. We saw during the Hall of Fame Game (and during most of last college season) that he’s got some work to do in order to be a competent QB on this level. He won’t be the starter this season, but his performance in the preseason will tell us a lot about Joe Flacco’s future with the Ravens. Should everything work out well, he has the potential down the road to be a fantasy monster with passing & rushing TDs. More of a dynasty league consideration, no doubt.

Tennessee at Green Bay (8:00 PM ET)

Titan To Watch: Corey Davis
The seventh overall pick in the 2017 Draft missed part of his rookie season due to a hamstring injury & never really got much momentum going. He’s still the favorite to be Tennessee’s top WR due to Rishard Matthews’ injury status and the fact that there aren’t really other choices. Titans fans will be hoping he takes a major step up. A lot of people think he will.

Packer To Watch: Jake Kumerow
Who is this guy? He used to be on Cincinnati & New England’s practice squad. For whatever reason, he’s become Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target during training camp. It seems improbable. He’s 26 years old. He went to a D-III school. He is the cousin of Joey & Nick Bosa, for whatever that’s worth. It might just be some weird Rodgers training camp thing, but we do need to keep an eye on it. Simply because if Aaron Rodgers wants a receiver to be a star, he will be.

Houston at Kansas City (8:30 PM ET)

Texan To Watch: Deshaun Watson
Watson is currently “likely to play” on Thursday night, which will be the first on-field action he’s seen since getting hurt on October 29, 2017. He won’t play for long, but everyone will want to see how he looks. He looked like the future of the league for a few weeks in 2017, and most of us will be hoping that he’s back at that level.

Chief To Watch: Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes got some big hype from Denver defensive players Von Miller & Aquib Tilib after Week 17 last season. Talib said Mahomes could take Alex Smith’s job right away. Miller took his hat off to Mahomes and said he would be the QB of the future. I mean, that sounds great after a meaningless Week 17 game & I know that a lot of Chiefs fans got something out of it. But let’s see how Mahomes does in his preseason series before we crown him as the next Tom Brady.

Dallas at San Francisco (10:00 PM ET, NFL Network)

Cowboy To Watch: Michael Gallup
With Dez Bryant out of the mix, the WR1 slot has opened up on a Dallas team that has an O-Line that will give Dak Prescott enough time to throw the ball. Gallup is the man that’s stood out early in training camp. He was drafted in the third round this year out of Colorado State, so plenty of people are looking for him to slip up. If he does well here & in other outings, he’ll have the inside track.

49er To Watch: George Kittle
Sports Illustrated had an interesting article last week on Jimmy Garoppolo. One of the things that stood out to me was his affinity towards his tight ends, which bodes well for the second-year Kittle. He had two top-seven weeks during Garoppolo’s five weeks with the 49ers. Overall, his rookie season wasn’t much, but with Garoppolo he looked like a threat.

Indianapolis at Seattle (10:00 PM ET)

Colt To Watch: Andrew Luck
He’s back! Luck was out of action for a full season due to a shoulder inury. The Colts sorely missed having him around. He’ll be getting some action this preseason to knock the rust off, and hopefully we’ll see flashes. As Luck goes, so will Indianapolis.

Seahawk To Watch: Rashaad Penny
The Seattle RB1 job has been up in the air since Marshawn Lynch’s departure. There was a revolving door with Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls & even Eddie Lacy getting a shot at the gig last season. None of them could make it stick, so the Seahawks were smart to use their late first round pick on a running back out of San Diego State that finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting last season. He ran for over 2200 yards in his senior season & was named to any & all postseason first-teams. Carson showed flashes last season, but Penny can take the job with a solid showing in the preseason.

Friday Games
Atlanta at NY Jets (7:30 PM ET, NFL Network)

Falcon To Watch: Calvin Ridley
Atlanta has a pretty good situation at wide receiver already, but Julio Jones won’t be there forever. With this in mind, the Falcons drafted another Alabama wide receiver in the first round: Calvin Ridley is a fast runner that excels at running routes. His combine performance may have dropped him a few spots in the draft, but he landed in a great situation with Matt Ryan at QB & guys like Jones & Mohamed Sanu that will teach him.

Jet To Watch: Teddy Bridgewater
The Jets’ quarterback situation is a tricky thing. Sam Darnold is obviously the future. The present comes down to him if he develops real quick, Josh McCown & Teddy. The thirty-nine year old McCown was never more accurate than he was last season with the Jets, he had some really good weeks & got some fantasy points for people since the Jets were coming from behind. Teddy is a guy that had a lot of potential coming out of college & got hurt in a horrendous fashion. Can he rebound & get himself into a spot where he can give people numbers? We’ll find out during the preseason.

Detroit at Oakland (10:30 PM ET, NFL Network)

Lion To Watch: Kerryon Johnson
Auburn is known for producing top of the line running backs, & the Lions got their latest product in the second round of the draft. Detroit’s running game is in flux right now. LeGarrette Blount is the presumed starter, with Theo Riddick & Ameer Abdullah hanging behind by a thread. Nobody has faith in these guys, so if Johnson has a big preseason he should get more of an opportunity early in the regulat season.

Raider To Watch: Arden Key
Key was first-team All-SEC back in 2016 for LSU, but missed two-thirds of his junior season due to injury. His draft stock plummeted due to off-field issues, but the Raiders have never let such things get in the way of acquiring talent. If training camp is any indication, they’ve got a good one. Key’s been impressing observers by dominating pass-rush drills against any & all Raider offensive linemen. With Khalil Mack holding out of training camp, Oakland would love it if Key had a big preseason & established himself at Mack’s position.

Saturday Games
Minnesota at Denver (9:00 PM ET, NFL Network)

Viking To Watch: Laquon Treadwell
Treadwell got a good amount of hype heading into the league, but the 2016 first-rounder has a grand total of 215 receiving yards after two seasons. With Kendall Wright now in Minnesota & looking like the pick for WR3, Treadwell will need to show something soon if he’s going to live up to his potential. A quiet preseason will surely lead to a quiet regular season.

Bronco To Watch: Phillip Lindsay
Everybody loves a hometown guy. Lindsay was born & raised in Denver & played college football at the University of Colorado, so Broncos fans already have a new favorite running back before he takes an official snap. Royce Freeman & David Williams were actually drafted so they’ll get every opportunity, but keep an eye on Lindsay. Especially if he gets the top kick returner slot. Some leagues do crazy things like return yards, so you never know.

LA Chargers at Arizona (10:00 PM ET)

Charger To Watch: Mike Williams
I’ve lost track of how many different Mike Williamses have played wide receiver. This one was the seventh overall pick last season & got completely lost in the shuffle his rookie year. Reports from training camp are good, and with Hunter Henry out of the mix there will be more touches to go around for everybody in what should be a really good Chargers offense. If the whole team doesn’t get hurt.

Cardinal To Watch: Josh Rosen
There are three conceivable options for Arizona’s starting QB this season. The most likely choice is Sam Bradford, who is coming off an injury that limited him to two games last season. The second choice is Mike Glennon, who is good enough to be a backup. Then there’s the rookie Rosen, who will eventually be QB1. Given the choice of which I’d watch on Saturday night, I’d prefer the rookie.

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