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Fantasy Football: Utilization takeaways from Preseason Week 3

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) against the Las Vegas Raiders during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears’ RB David Montgomery returned to action and bogarted 91% of the snaps over the first four drives. He might be sliding too far in fantasy drafts as a late Round 5 selection.

Cleveland Browns’ TE David Njoku is poised for his first full-time role since 2018, when he posted a TE9 finish, making him the top late-round TE target.

Houston Texans’ RB Dameon Pierce is set to lead the Texans rushing attack after the release of Marlon Mack. Rex Burkhead will challenge for passing-down work, but Pierce should push for an every-down role sooner rather than later.

Denver Broncos’ WR K.J. Hamler returned to action for the first time since Week 3 of last season (ACL) and should eventually take over the WR3 role in Denver.

Washington Commanders’ RB Antonio Gibson shifts back into the lead role to start the season in Washington after Brian Robinson Jr. suffered gunshot wounds in an unfortunate turn of events.

Estimated reading time: 23 mins

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ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Cardinals rested their starters.

Takeaways
  • The battle to claim the No. 2 role behind James Conner could tip toward Benjamin, but the most likely outcome seems like a committee approach.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons rested their starters.

Takeaways
  • Williams appears to be the top backup to Patterson, but we could easily see a rotation including Tyler Allgeier at some point this season.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Ravens rested their starters.

Takeaways
  • Davis appears to be the No. 2 option behind J.K. Dobbins and could handle a Gus Edwards-type role. He could operate as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 until Dobbins and Edwards are ready for their normal workloads.
  • Drake could challenge Hill for passing-down duties and split work with Davis until the Ravens get healthy.
  • Likely is Mark Andrews‘ clear-cut handcuff, and the team has plans to get him on the field. He isn’t a great blocker, so gaining a large snap share with Andrews playing the same move-TE position will be tough. However, they could also rotate Likely with the receivers.

BUFFALO BILLS

The Bills rested their starters.

Takeaways
  • Cook is battling Moss for the No. 2 role but still has a path to gain snaps in the passing game as the season progresses. Fantasy managers must practice patience early in the year with the rookie.
  • McKenzie is a Round 12 selection in FFPC drafts, which is a fair price for the starting slot option in a pass-first offense. Crowder will remain involved and is still worth a late-round pick in deep leagues.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Panthers played some starters.

  • Running back: Chuba Hubbard started the game and handled 64% of the snaps with Baker Mayfield. D’Onta Foreman worked with the starters, taking 36% of the work with Mayfield. Hubbard again controlled 100% of the obvious passing downs. Foreman led the way in SDD situations, 60% versus 40% for Hubbard.
  • Wide receiver: The Panthers traded for Laviska Shenault Jr.
Takeaways
  • Hubbard seems to have a slight edge as the favorite behind Christian McCaffrey, thanks to the passing down role. This will likely be a committee if something happens to CMC.
  • Shenault isn’t a target for fantasy drafts but should push for the WR3 role with the Panthers and could become a waiver wire target.

CHICAGO BEARS

The Bears played their starters.

  • Running back: David Montgomery returned to action and handled 91% of Chicago's snaps on the first four drives. Montgomery and Darnell Mooney left the game before Justin Fields’ final drive when Khalil Herbert took over.
  • Tight end: Cole Kmet ran a route on 77% of Fields’ dropbacks, bringing his total to 72% with Fields for the last two preseason games (he didn’t play Week 1).
Takeaways
  • Montgomery is a middling talent, making him a prime dead zone back, but the Bears still appear committed to a prominent role. He could be one of the few 70%-plus utilization backs in 2022. His ADP started in Round 3 this offseason but is down to a late-Round 5 selection and slips into Round 6 in about half of drafts at the FFPC. I am willing to buy in Round 6 on the right build.
  • Kmet might not reach the 80% route participation threshold we saw him pushing late in 2021, but 72% is still respectable enough for him to challenge for the No. 2 role in the Bears’ passing attack.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

The Bengals rested their starters.

  • Running back: Samaje Perine rested with the starters for the third consecutive week. Chris Evans started and played into the third quarter.
Takeaways
  • Perine should be considered the No. 2 option behind Joe Mixon.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Browns played some starters.

  • Tight end: David Njoku posted a healthy 80% route participation with the starting offense this preseason.
Takeaways
  • Njoku has rotated over the last two years with Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant, but the team could give him a shot at a full-time TE role after signing a four-year $54,750,000 contract. The last time Njoku approached an 80% route participation (78% in 2019), he finished as the TE9.

DALLAS COWBOYS

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