Fantasy News & Analysis

Preseason Week 3 Recap: Immediate fantasy football takeaways from Thursday's games

2JNTT8K Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 13th Aug, 2022. August 13th, 2022 Jaylen Warren #30 during the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Seattle Seahawks in Pittsburgh, PA at Acrisure Stadium. Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR (Credit Image: © Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR via ZUMA Press Wire)

Jaylen Warren scores another touchdown: Warren might not take over the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield, but he will certainly cut into Najee Harris’ touches this season.

Calvin Austin III gets snaps with the first team: The slot receiver missed his entire rookie season, but he should get at least some playing time early in the season.

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PFF's fantasy football recap focuses on player usage and stats, breaking down all the vital information you need to achieve fantasy success in 2023. You can find more information on why it’s essential to pay attention to the preseason here.

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Pittsburgh Steelers @ Atlanta Falcons

The Jaylen Warren hype doesn’t stop: Warren continues to mix in significantly with the starters, a sign he will see similar playing time in the regular season.

  • Najee Harris took the field for two plays at a time at most before Warren came in for a third play.
  • The NFL Network pregame show talked at length about how the Steelers said this would be more of a running back duo this season — like a classic thunder-and-lightning running back pair — and that the team would restrict Harris’ playing time.
  • We began to see this transition late last season.
  • Harris took 30 first-down snaps on the first drives of games from Week 1-14 last year, compared to two by Warren and two by other backups.
  • This changed over the last four weeks, with Harris taking 13 compared to Warren's four. Over the preseason, Harris has played eight and Warren has played four.
  • Harris will likely remain the leader in early-down work when healthy, but Warren has slowly but surely cut into his playing time.
  • If Warren continues to take all of the passing-down work and a third of the early-down work, he could have standalone value this season, while Harris won’t be worth one of the top-20 running back spots.

Calvin Austin III gets more work with the starters: The former fourth-round pick has worked his way back from his Lisfranc injury and has moved up the depth chart.

  • In the Steelers' first preseason game, Gunner Olszewski and Cody White played a snap with the first team. Austin didn’t start playing until Pittsburgh’s second drive, which is when the backups came in.
  • The following week, Austin and Olszewski received a snap each with the starters, with Austin taking a fake end-around.
  • Austin was the only backup wide receiver to play a snap with the starters against the Falcons. He received two snaps, including a handoff on an end-around for 3 yards.
  • Considering all three Steelers starting wide receivers are capable of playing on the outside, it’s possible Austin could see the field in three-receiver sets anytime one of the three starters needs a play off.
  • It’s not out of the question that Austin takes over for Allen Robinson II as the Steelers' primary slot receiver at some point in the season.

Falcons TE Parker Hesse is on the roster bubble: The Falcons rested several other skill players who will make the roster, but Hesse was stuck playing in this game.

  • Hesse led the Falcons tight end room in offensive snaps last season with 646. 
  • He was primarily used as a run-blocker, catching one pass per game at most.
  • At a minimum, he's fallen below Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith and MyCole Pruitt based on preseason usage in all three games, as well as fullback Keith Smith.
  • John Fitzpatrick was the primary receiving tight end in this game, so if Atlanta wants to keep a fifth player who is more of a receiver than a blocker, Fitzpatrick could make the roster.
  • If Atlanta chooses to keep five tight ends/fullbacks, then Hesse’s job is likely safe, but the fact that he’s playing at all in this game isn’t a great sign.

Miscellaneous Notes

Indianapolis Colts @ Philadelphia Eagles

Deon Jackson starts for the second straight week: Jackson appears to be in the lead for the Colts' backup job.

  • Jackson took every snap with the Colts starters over the first two drives, which ended with a 3-yard touchdown run.
  • Evan Hull, who started the first preseason game, took over on the third drive. His drive also ended in a touchdown run.
  • Jackson rejoined the starters for Indianapolis’ fourth and fifth drives, splitting time with Hull.
  • Veteran Kenyan Drake signed with the Colts three weeks ago and played in the first quarter last week, but he didn’t receive a snap with the starters tonight.
  • Jake Funk received his first snaps on offense before Drake, which puts Drake on the roster bubble.
  • Jonathan Taylor has been given permission to explore a trade and is still on the PUP list, while Zack Moss remains out with a broken arm.
  • This means Jackson could be the Week 1 starter for Indianapolis.

Josh Downs starts for the Colts: Downs was the slot receiver with the first-team offense.

  • Indianapolis stayed in 11 personnel for nearly every snap over the first three drives. Downs took 100% of the snaps out of 11 personnel and didn’t take a snap out of 12 personnel.
  • It seemed clear that he would start in the slot last week. Indianapolis didn’t play their primary starters, but Downs played in the first quarter last week while his primary competition, Isaiah McKenzie, didn’t start playing until late in the second quarter.
  • McKenzie played in this game, but not until the second half with the backups.
  • We can expect Downs to get significant playing time for the Colts in Week 1 and beyond.

Multiple Colts tight ends make their preseason debuts: Both Drew Ogletree and Mo Alie-Cox took their first snaps of the preseason.

  • Indianapolis used a three-man rotation with Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson and Jelani Woods last season. Ogletree was a sixth-round pick who was on a trajectory to be in that rotation before he tore his ACL, costing him his rookie season.
  • Granson was the only one of the four to play this preseason. He started the first game and was among the key players who sat out in Week 2.
  • How the Colts use their tight ends this season is particularly interesting because they have a new coaching staff. They’ve tended to have talented players in recent seasons, but the constant rotation of players has made it impossible to trust anyone for fantasy football purposes.
  • Ogletree started the game. He either led the team in offensive snaps on each of the first three drives with the starters or was tied. Granson wasn’t far behind.
  • Alie-Cox was a clear third on the depth chart tonight, although he also received snaps with the starters. He had just returned to practice on Wednesday, so his limited snaps in practice could have contributed to his playing time.
  • Woods has the most upside of the tight ends, but he has missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.
  • The goal was for one tight end to emerge in Indianapolis, but it instead looks like we could be stuck with another rotation. It’s too early to be sure until Woods is back and fully healthy.

The Eagles are likely keeping all four running backs: Philadelphia rested their starters and key backups, which included all four running backs fighting for the starting job.

  • D’Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott and Rashaad Penny all had the game off.
  • The preseason gave us little indication of how they will be used outside of Penny being the likely fourth on the depth chart.
  • Swift, Gainwell and Scott all sat out two of three games and received single-digit snaps in the one game they did play. Penny played 33 snaps over two games.
  • The running back rotation with the starters was always one player playing several snaps and their night was done, giving no indication of the situations in which any of the backs might be used.
  • How the Eagles use their running backs in Week 1 might be the biggest highlight of the fantasy recap for that game.

Miscellaneous Notes

Table Notes

Snaps include plays called back due to penalties, including offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.

Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown-away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.

Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.


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