Fantasy News & Analysis

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

2M81NF2 New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. 11th Jan, 2023. Carolina Panthers running back Raheem Blackshear runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints in an NFL game in New Orleans, Louisiana USA on January 8, 2023. The Panthers beat the Saints 10-7. (Credit Image: © Dan Anderson/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

Adam Thielen leads the Panthers offense: Bryce Young spread the ball around in the first two preseason games, but he honed in on Thielen tonight and even connected with him for a touchdown.

Hayden Hurst wasn't targeted again: Hurst was rotated out more than in previous preseason games and didn’t receive a target for the second straight game.

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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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Detroit Lions @ Carolina Panthers

Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo lead the Panthers: Adam Thielen caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown over the Panthers' first two drives.

  • The Panthers are dealing with a number of injuries at wide receiver: D.J. Chark is out with a hamstring injury, Terrace Marshall Jr. with a back injury, and Laviska Shenault Jr. is in the concussion protocol. Those three pass-catchers make up three of the top five wide receivers on the depth chart.
  • Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo unsurprisingly started this game, with Derek Wright joining them. Shi Smith is more likely than Wright to make the roster, but Smith backs up Thielen in the slot, while Wright is a backup outside receiver.
  • The Panthers have used their starters extensively in the preseason, and there has been no indication of who Bryce Young’s favorite target was until tonight. Thielen appears to be the early favorite, given this stat line.
  • Thielen did spend a few plays in the medical tent, but he was able to return to the game, which is a pretty clear sign he is okay.
  • Mingo caught his only pass on the game's first offensive play, but there was positive news regarding how Carolina used him.
  • Carolina had run only three snaps outside of 11 personnel with the starters in the first two games. Mingo had played only one of those three snaps out of 12 personnel.
  • However, Mingo played all of the 12 personnel snaps and the only snap out of 13 personnel with the starters today.
  • This is great news for his playing time during his rookie season. Now, he just needs more targets.

Slow the hype for Hayden Hurst: Hurst didn’t dominate offensive snaps with the starters like he did during the Panthers' first two preseason games.

  • The former Cincinnati Bengals tight end took all 11 snaps with the starters in their first game and all but three snaps in the second game.
  • The three plays he missed last week came late in a 15-play drive, and they were all run plays, so that wasn’t too concerning.
  • On both drives tonight, Hurst played the first four or five plays and then took the following three plays off. He was replaced by Ian Thomas.
  • He ended up playing 72.7% of offensive snaps with the starters, similar to his playing time with the Bengals last season and with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
  • He’s only received one target over the three preseason games — a 5-yard reception, which came in the first week of the preseason.
  • Hurst is still the clear starting tight end for Carolina, but his upside is very limited if he’s not seeing targets and not playing over 80% of offensive snaps.

Panthers' third running back spot heats up: Raheem Blackshear started this game for Carolina.

  • Miles Sanders returned to practice this week, but the team still held him out of this game. Backup Chuba Hubbard was also held out after injuring his ankle last week against the New York Giants. Hubbard also returned to practice this week, but the team is being cautious.
  • Blackshear had been the team’s third running back last season. He typically played between three and 11 offensive snaps a game over the second half of the season.
  • Spencer Brown appeared to be in the lead for the third spot with the new coaching staff.
  • Brown took over for Hubbard in the first preseason game. He played 20 snaps in the second and third quarter to Blackshear's three snaps, with Blackshear taking over in the fourth quarter.
  • Brown similarly took 20 snaps to Blackshear's nine in the first three quarters last week, with Blackshear again playing the entire fourth quarter.
  • Blackshear started, but it was a heavy rotation between the two players.
  • Blackshear has been the primary returner for Carolina this preseason after being the primary returner last season. His job on the roster is safe, whereas Brown will only be safe if Carolina keeps four running backs.

Lions competition for the fifth receiver spot: Detroit rested its top five wide receivers, but someone who played today will be their fifth receiver with Jameson Williams suspended.

  • Undrafted rookie Chase Cota seems to be the favorite over Antoine Green and Dylan Drummond for the next wide receiver spot.
  • He was one of two wide receivers to start last week and the only one who played last week who stopped playing before the fourth quarter.
  • He similarly started this week and was the only one playing 100% of snaps over the first quarter. Every other wide receiver was rotating in and out.
  • Cota led the Lions in receiving yards in the first preseason game with 60 yards. He caught the Lions' only touchdown in the second game and caught a 21-yard pass late in the first quarter of this game.
  • The only other player who could be in contention is Maurice Alexander, an undrafted rookie in 2022 who played seven offensive snaps last season and scored a touchdown on a 95-yard punt return in the first preseason game. His roster spot seems safe, especially after running back/returner Justin Jackson retired.

Miscellaneous Notes

New England Patriots @ Tennessee Titans

Kayshon Boutte’s roster spot is safe: Boutte played the first drive, and then his day was done.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne are locked in the top three spots on the depth chart. All three played in the Patriots' second preseason game and had the other two games off.
  • Sixth-round rookie Demario Douglas received three snaps with the starters in that game — two more than Boutte — but Douglas has been dealing with a shoulder injury.
  • Tyquan Thornton is also dealing with an undisclosed injury. Thornton’s roster spot is only safe if New England keeps six wide receivers.
  • Ty Montgomery has also got work as a wide receiver and is listed as a receiver on the depth chart, but he’s missed the entire preseason. He returned to practice earlier this week and might be on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

Patriots' third running back spot remains wide open: There is no clear winner between Pierre Strong, Kevin Harris and J.J. Taylor.

  • Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott sat this game out and are the top two running backs on the roster.
  • The three rotated in and out throughout the entire first preseason game. Strong started and rotated by drive with Harris, while Taylor took most passing situations.
  • Strong missed the last game after spending time in the concussion protocol.
  • Harris and Taylor took snaps over the first four drives for New England, with Strong not entering the game until the middle of the second quarter. However, his fall on the depth chart for this game could be due to his missed practice time.
  • Most recent 53-man roster projections by Patriots beat writers have put Strong on the roster with Harris and Taylor off.
  • As mentioned with the wide receivers, Ty Montgomery could also factor in here as a receiving back and serve as the third running back if he makes the roster.

Tyjae Spears remains the favorite to be the backup running back: Spears took every snap for the Titans on their first two drives.

  • He’s dominated first-quarter snaps over the three preseason games. He's played 38, compared to eight by Hassan Haskins and seven by Julis Chestnut.
  • Haskins has not been practicing over the last two weeks for undisclosed reasons. He was reportedly arrested on an aggravated assault charge a month ago, which could be a factor. Most Titans beat writers have left the former fourth-round pick off their projected 53-man rosters.
  • Julius Chestnut seems set as the Titans' third running back.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki both sat this game out due to injury. Henry was banged up after Wednesday’s practice, while Gesicki recently returned to practice but was held out as a precaution. We have yet to see the two tight ends play together in the preseason.
  • DeAndre Hopkins was among the Titans veterans who had the night off, while Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips missed the game with injuries. Chris Moore appears to be the favorite to start if Burks misses Week 1, while Westbrook-Ikhine will likely take slot duties if Philips misses Week 1.
  • Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and tight end Trevon Wesco are the expected starters who played in this game, but they played only on the first drive before taking the night off.
  • Sleeper tight end candidate Chigoziem Okonkwo was among the players with the night off.

Los Angeles Chargers @ San Francisco 49ers

Don’t expect much out of Quentin Johnston early: Johnston has continued to see significant playing time in the preseason while Joshua Palmer rests.

  • Johnston was expected to win the third wide receiver spot, but Palmer is clearly ahead of him at this point.
  • The first-round rookie played 43 offensive snaps over the first two games. He caught six of nine passes on 27 routes for 47 yards and a touchdown in that time.
  • Los Angeles has been without the other four of their top five players on the depth chart, so it’s not surprising Johnston has seen 33.3% targets per route run in those games.
  • He caught two passes on six routes over the Chargers' first three drives to keep his 33.3% target share, and then he was taken out early in the second quarter before their fourth drive.
  • Johnston will very likely see some playing time in Week 1 and can earn more playing time as the season progresses. But if you were planning on starting him in Week 1, it might make sense to find a temporary alternative.
  • It’s worth remembering players such as Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were playing behind Braxton Berrios and Marquez Callaway, respectively, in the third preseason week last season, so there is no reason for long-term concerns at this point — just in the short term.

Jordan Mason retakes the lead for the third receiver spot: Mason took every snap on the 49ers’ first two drives.

  • Mason started the 49ers’ first preseason game, and Tyrion Davis-Price started the second.
  • Davis-Price generally saw more playing time in those games, but that included significant time in the fourth quarter in both outings. Mason, meanwhile, was consistently taken out before that point.
  • Mason ran the ball nine times for 59 yards and caught one pass for 13 yards within his two drives, but he also lost a fumble.
  • This battle isn’t as consequential as most, as the 49ers are expected to keep all four halfbacks on the 53-man roster, and the leader between Mason and Davis-Price could change as the season progresses.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • 49ers quarterback Trey Lance was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick just hours before this game, so Lance didn’t play.
  • The only starting skill player with the night off was Christian McCaffrey. His primary backup, Elijah Mitchell, was back at practice earlier this week, but he didn’t play in this game.
  • The 49ers’ wide receiver and tight end rotations were the same as last year. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel played in all personnel groups with Jauan Jennings in for three-receiver sets. George Kittle remains the every-down starting tight end, with both Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley seeing time in two-tight end sets.
  • Kittle played each of the first 12 snaps, and then his day was done before the rest of the 49ers’ starters.
  • The Chargers rested quarterback Justin Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler, wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer, and tight end Gerald Everett — as they have all preseason.
  • Chargers backup wide receiver Jalen Guyton remains on the PUP list.
  • Donald Parham appeared to lock up the backup tight end job last week but missed practice Tuesday with an undisclosed injury. He returned to practice Wednesday, but was likely kept out of this game as a precaution.
  • Joshua Kelley played the first five snaps, broke a 75-yard touchdown run and his night was done. He’s locked into the backup job for Los Angeles.

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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