What We Learned: 2021 Preseason
Check back here every week to listen to Tim: analyze what we saw, discuss who's trending up or down, and jump to some wild conclusions.
1. Daniel Jones: Not the hero Gotham deserves, but the one it needs.
This Sunday, Daniel Jones led the New York Giants to their largest comeback win since 1970, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-31. Despite losing generational talent Saquon Barkley with an ankle injury early in the game, Jones led his team to their first win of the season. Down 28-10 at half time, Danny Dimes rallied his offense to 22 second-half points. In his NFL debut, Jones had 330 yards passing, two TD’s and two rushing TD’s. He joins Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Mike Vick as one of only six QB’s in NFL history to have had such a game.
Although he was prolific as a passer, he won the game with his legs, which is something we would have never said about Eli Manning in a million years. Jones converted several key third downs by taking off, including two crucial rushing TD’s. With his week three performance, Daniel Jones now has more fantasy points this season than Baker Mayfield, which should tell you how bad the Browns QB is playing.
Thanks to Jones, Sterling Shepard enjoyed a nice return. Shepard finished with seven catches on nine targets for 100 yards and a TD and is suddenly in the WR2 discussion.
Evan Engram also had a big game, catching six of his eight targets for 113 yards and a TD. If there was anyone still questioning whether or not Engram was worth a first round selection, they were silenced on Sunday. His incredible athleticism was on display from start to finish. His first reception of the game might currently be the catch of the year, and his 4.3 speed shined through on a 75-yard catch and run touchdown.
The lone drawback of the evening for the Giants was that they lost Barkley with a high ankle sprain, he'll be out for at least the next four weeks. Former Clemson back Wayne Gallman will serve as the head of the Giants backfield in the mean time, and with all the attention on Jones, he might be better fantasy-wise than you think. I’d rank him as a RB3/Flex until we see the kind of workload he receives and how he handles it.
Barkley could miss up to eight weeks and yet, it feels like everything is going to be okay in the Meadowlands. If they had lost Saquon Barkley last week, things would have seemed much worse. The difference is: this week, Saquon isn’t the only star in New York.
Daniel Jones en route to his first rushing touchdown on Sunday. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
2. Mike Evans EXPLODES against the Giants
This week, fantasy owners let out a collective sigh of relief as Mike Evans confirmed that he is in fact, still Mike Evans. Clearly, Mike Evans was only quiet the first two weeks because he needed to charge up his inner Mike Evans. #MikeEvans
But this is the guy we expected him to be when we drafted him as our WR1 right? In fantasy-land, patience is hard to come by. It’s more of a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of environment, and after two weeks of mediocre production, most Evans owners were looking to sell. If you bought-low, here’s to you.
The first two weeks were disappointing, no doubt about it. But a closer look at the numbers shows us that Evans hasn’t had less than 1,000 receiving yards, since he entered the league. Not to mention, he’s one of the more durable players in the league (played at least 15 games in five straight seasons). He’s scored eight or more TD’s in three out of five of those seasons. Last year, he finished with a career-high in receiving yards (1,524) and receptions of 20 or more yards (25).
I know he started slow, and Chris Godwin looks ripe, but did everyone just think Mike Evans would fall clean off the map? ESPN Senior Fantasy Analyst Field Yates tweeted that he was able to acquire him in a straight-up trade for Ted Ginn last week. If that’s not a microcosm of how thin patience is in fantasy football, then I don’t know what is.
Evans put on an absolute clinic against the Giants on Sunday. Eight catches, 190 yards (23.8 YPC), and three TD's. He routinely torched the Giants secondary, and there was literally nothing they could do to stop him. Even with under a minute left to play, up just one point, the Giants couldn’t stop Evans from imposing his will with a 44-yard gain. It’s honestly baffling the Bucs didn’t win that game because of that. Nonetheless, Evans should be locked in as a top-seven fantasy WR going forward.
3. The Broncos backfield is confusing
Phillip Lindsay is the better PPR back, and an excellent player. In week three, he had 25 touches, 130 total yards and 2 rushing TD’s. Lindsay has no less than four catches or 10 PPR points in any game so far this season. But the problem is, Royce Freeman is looming.
Freeman is starting to look like a very solid back, he had 19 touches for 73 total yards in week three. He should’ve also had a TD, but it was called back. Freeman now has at least 54 rushing yards in every game, and he’s starting to make an impact in the receiving game as well, 9 catches 58 yards past two weeks.
Lindsay had his best game of the season this week, which will cause his perceived value to jump, but this backfield will be very hard to predict. The way I see it, most weeks will be more like week 1-2 than they will be like week three. However, if both backs continue to split the touches and receive around 15-20 touches per game each, there's no reason to believe that both can't be fantasy relevant.
It’s getting closer every week, but I still prefer Lindsay. He’s out-snapping and out-touching Freeman. You can count on him more as a receiver as well. Through three weeks Lindsay already has 30 percent as many catches as he did in 15 games last year. Right now, I see Lindsay as a high-floor PPR RB2, while I see Freeman as more of a solid flex play, especially in non-PPR.
4. Lamar Jackson back to earth as passer
Well, it was fun while it lasted. After leading the league in passer rating through two weeks (140+), Lamar Jackson came back to earth in week three.
In the first half, Jackson went 8-19 passing for just 75 yards... He missed/overthrew several passes that could/should have been completed. When it was all said and done, he only completed 51 percent of his passes for 267, no passing TD's and finished with a dismal 54.5 passer rating.
For as bad as he was throwing the ball, he still put up 20+ fantasy points thanks his 48 rushing yards and one rushing TD. While he might not have delivered the type of high-level performance we saw from him in week one or two, he didn’t turn the ball over, and his team only lost by 5 points. Jackson is now 8-2 as a starter. His only two losses? Both to the Chiefs, in Kansas City.
Despite taking a step back as a passer in week three, he’s still a top-two fantasy QB for me.
5. Brissett starts 16-16, puts up franchise QB performance vs Falcons
Brissett began his game strong against the Falcons on Sunday, 16-16 for 173 yards and one TD. He finished it strong as well. In the end, he had 310 yards, two TD's and no turnovers. Perhaps most importantly, he converted on a late third down try to ice the game for the Colts.
Brissett is playing like a veteran (7TD’s, 1 INT), winning games (2-1 so far) and he’s making TY Hilton look like a fantasy WR1. Even though he’s typically viewed as a deep threat, Hilton has yet to eclipse 87 receiving yards in a game this year. Still, he has four TD's in three weeks. He’s never had more than seven receiving TD's in a season, but if he keeps this up he’ll likely shatter that mark this season. Believe it or not, Brissett is on pace to throw 38 touchdowns this year. Hilton has 25 targets so far, which isn’t even top-20 after week two (tied with Travis Kelce and Julian Edelman for 22nd most) but it’s by far the most on the Colts.
It looks like Hilton injured his Quad in week three, but regardless of if he suits up or not, I like Brissett against a bottom-ten Raiders pass defense. I’ve got a feeling the Oakland secondary would have even worse defensive stats if they didn’t play Joe Flacco in week one and Kirk Cousins in week three. The only real quarterback they’ve faced so far is Patrick Mahomes, and they allowed him to have the most productive single quarter by a QB in NFL history.
Brissett get’s the Tim’s Fantasy Tips seal of approval, for this week, and for the foreseeable future.
6. Dalvin Cook = RB1
Dalvin Cook is on fire. He now has at least 20 touches, 100+ rushing yards and a TD three weeks in a row.
The Vikings running game is so potent, that Cook had two short touchdowns stolen from him in week three via Alexander Mattison and Adam Thielen, and he STILL put up over 20 fantasy points!
Right now, Cook is averaging 26 PPR points per game, as well as leading the league in rushing yards and rushing TD's. Well, technically he's tied with 49ers third string back Jeff Wilson for the most rushing TD's (4) but I expect Cook to pull away from him, and leave him in the dust.
As far as I’m concerned Dalvin Cook is the undisputed RB1 in fantasy, especially now that Saquon Barkley could miss anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery rank as a close second and third, but until Cook has a game where he touches the ball less than 20 times, has less than 100 yards rushing, doesn’t score a rushing TD AND scores less than 20 fantasy points, he will be placed firmly atop my rankings every week. Rumble young man, rumble.
7. Mahomes needs to be nerfed
Patrick Mahomes is too good at football. Currently, Mahomes has multiple passing TD's in 14 straight games. The record is held by Peyton Manning, with 15 straight. This guy hasn’t even played two full years in the NFL, yet every week he breaks some sort of QB record.
He’s the only other player to throw for 300 and 3 tds in three straight games to begin a season since Tom Brady in 2007, who threw for 5000 yards, 50 TD's and was undefeated during that year.
Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, he just passed Kurt Warner for the most 300-yard passing games through the first 20 games of a players career (13). Mahomes has played in 19 regular season games, which means he's thrown for over 300 yards in 68 percent of his games.
No player has more pass yards (6,578), pass TD's (60) and 3+ TD pass games (13) through the first 20 games of their career than Patrick Mahomes. And, like I said, he’s only played 19 regular season games. He is on pace to throw for 53 touchdowns and 6,373 freakin' yards this season. I mean, what the hell?
He’s got probably THE fastest receiving core in the league, and more than enough arm/awareness/athleticism to get the job done several times over. Mecole Hardman (4.2 speed), Demarcus Robinson (holy crap did you see that catch last week?), and Sammy Watkins (former top-five pick) are all wicked fast and threats to explode any given week. Tyreek Hill will be back in a few weeks. Don’t even get me started on Travis Kelce. Plus, if Shady takes over this backfield, it’s starting to look like a Madden Ultimate Team!
Mahomes is on pace to put up stats that I couldn’t even put up in a season against the computer on All-Madden.
Has anyone tested this guy for PEDs? Does he have an infinity stone in his pocket? Did I put him on the sit list one time or something? No. Not even I am that crazy.
I’m really not sure there’s anyone that can stand in his way, or stop him from breaking every QB record the NFL has to offer. Only one name comes to mind.
8. Time to panic on James Conner/Stefon Diggs?
Did you spend one of your top three draft picks on someone that has delivered nothing but three duds in a row? Yeah, me too.
After three weeks, James Conner (ADP: RB8) has scored just 31.7 PPR points (10.5 per game). Those numbers don't sound horrible, but they are not the RB1 numbers fantasy owners had anticipated. Those aren't even RB2 numbers if you ask me.
After three weeks, Conner has failed to top 17 touches or 65 total yards in a game, and has scored just one touchdown. Most of his lack of usage is due to negative game-flow, but it also has a lot to do with his lack of efficiency (2.8 yards per rush). So far, the most he's gotten you is 13.5 PPR points. It begs the question, is it time to hit the panic button?
I say hold off. There's no point in trading him because his value is at an all-time low. And if you drop him, you'll probably regret it. Either way, you'll never get a solid return on investment.
While he hasn't gotten very many yards, his usage in the passing-game is encouraging. His 11 catches through three games is the ninth-most among running backs. The loss of Big Ben obviously hurts the fantasy prospects of this offense as a whole, but I still think Conner finishes as a top-15 fantasy RB this season.
Next week he gets to face a Bengals defense that is second only to the Dolphins in fantasy points allowed to RB's this season. Cincinatti has allowed opposing back's to rack up 564 total yards and six total TD's this season. If he still can't get it done this week, then we may have a problem.
When it comes Stefon Diggs, on the other hand, I'm in full-on panic mode.
Six catches for 101 yards and one TD. That should be one game for him, not his stats after three full games.
If you've been reading you know how much I love Dalvin Cook. The Vikings run-heavy approach is working wonders, so most times there is no need for them to pass the ball. Kirk Cousins has less than 180 passing yards in two of the three games this year, the Vikings are 2-0 with over 30 real-life points in both of those games. And when they do decide to throw it's mostly to Adam Thielen, who is managing to stay afloat in fantasy, unlike Diggs.
After failing to capitalize on an easy matchup with the Raiders, Diggs has got to go. If you can get any sort of usable WR in a trade for Diggs, I'd pull the trigger before his value dips even lower. Of course, you can choose to let him eat up a bench spot while you play roulette, trying to decide which week he has a big game. But the way I see it, he's a VERY low-floor boom or bust option going forward.
9. Mixon is alive !
He's alive! *Robot Chicken voice*
In week three, Mixon came through with 93 total yards and a receiving TD on 17 touches against a tough Buffalo defense. Just when things were beginning to look grim.
During the first two weeks, Mixon averaged just two yards per touch on 22 total touches. His matchups were ideal, but his usage, efficiency and fantasy output were not. It's nice to know he's willing to show up when I make him the RB sit of the week though. That must have been all the motivation he needed.
Nevertheless, it looks like Mixon has earned his way back into RB2 territory. Next week he gets a Pittsburgh defense that allowed the 49ers backfield to run wild in week three. The Steelers are allowing the most receiving yards, second-most receptions and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RB's so far this season.
Nice of you to show up Joe, and just in time.
10. Kyle Allen, better than Cam?
Now, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but Kyle Allen is better than Cam Newton and should take over as the Panthers starting QB. Woah, sorry. That one kind of slipped out. But is it wrong?
In two career starts, he's undefeated, he's accounted for seven total TD's, and turned the ball over just once. On Sunday against the Cardinals, he led the Panthers to their first win of the season, throwing for 261 yards and four TD's.
Fantasy-wise, I absolutely love what he did for this offense. Allen tossed TD's to Greg Olsen (2), Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore. Carolina's run-game benefitted from his high-level play as well (McCaffery: 24 carries, 154 yards, 6.4 YPC & 1 TD).
In week three, Allen posted a higher completion percentage (73.1) than Cam Newton has since week 12 of last season. He also averaged more yards per attempt (10.0) than Cam has since WEEK FIVE OF 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen, we might have a quarterback controversy on our hands.
Tim Brosnan, Fantasy Sports Analyst/Freelance Journalist
Tim Brosnan is a college-educated sports journalist from the New Haven, Connecticut area.
Brosnan earned his Bachelor's Degree from Castleton University where he majored in Media & Communication, with a focus in Journalism.
During his tenure as the sports editor of the Castleton Spartan newspaper, Brosnan created the segment 'Tim's Fantasy Tips'. It began as a simple weekly start/sit column, but since then, the idea has grown into so much more.
Brosnan has taken his experience/passion for fantasy football and combined it with his journalistic know-how in order to bring you a completely original, well-informed, multi-layered fantasy football advice experience.
We hope you enjoy.