The most important thing we're looking for during the preseason – more than playing time notes or late-round sleeper targets or anything else – is health. When the games don't mean anything, the last thing we want to see is injuries.
And, on that note, Week 2 of the preseason has been a smashing success. So far, at least, because the Ravens and Commanders are still set to play tonight. But, with just the one game left, we've managed to avoid any significant injuries that could dramatically alter the Fantasy landscape, and that's really all we want.
I'll make sure to knock on the nearest bit of wood to me if you'll do the same, because the draft process has been remarkably light on, "Oh no, I have to re-do my entire rankings" kinds of news events. We're still a little more than two weeks removed from the start of the regular season, but with most teams unlikely to play too many of their starters in Week 3 of the preseason, we're probably past the point where most major injuries tend to happen in the preseason/training camp time period. We'll take that as a pretty significant win as we continue to prep for the 2023 Fantasy Football season.
There are going to be a few changes to the rankings coming out of Preseason Week 2, of course, and that's what today's Newsletter is all about. I've got my latest winners and losers from the most important week of the preseason for you below, and the best news is, there aren't many players who gained or lost value because of injuries.
By the way: I'm planning on doing a Mailbag edition of the newsletter this week, so you can send your toughest Draft Prep questions my way at Chris.Towers@Paramount.com to be included -- use the subject line "#AskFFT" so I'll notice them!
Preseason Week 2: Winners
Daniel Jones, QB, Giants
Jones was within spitting distance of a top-12 finish in per-game scoring last season despite just 200.3 passing yards per game and less than one passing touchdown per game. His rushing gives him a nice floor, and the case for drafting him this season is based around a belief that he's poised to take a big step forward as a passer thanks to the addition of Darren Waller in particular. Well, Jones targeted Waller on each of his first three dropbacks and finished his lone drive Friday with 69 yards and a touchdown through the air. I'm not really moving Jones up at all in my rankings because of this – he's still QB16 for me – but if you're a believer, you got some evidence for it in his first preseason action.
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James Cook, RB, Bills
The only time the Bills have really had a useful Fantasy option at running back in the Josh Allen era has been the rare times when they've used one back – typically Devin Singletary – for 65% of their snaps or more. We can't know how they'll deploy Cook once the games matter – especially with Damien Harris missing both preseason games to date with a knee injury – but so far, Cook is being treated like an every-down back. He played 14 of 16 snaps with Josh Allen in the game this week, and the only time he came off the field was after he played nine straight snaps on the second drive of the game. Cook is up to RB21 over the past two weeks in ADP in NFFC drafts, and while I don't love him at that price, I'm starting to buy in at least a little bit given how they've used him so far.
Tyjae Spears, RB, Titans
Spears got an extended look with the starters on the sidelines and his main competition to be Derrick Henry's backup dealing with an injury, and he took advantage. He rushed for 57 yards on seven carries, highlighted by a 33-yard touchdown where he leapt over a tackler at the line and sped past the rest of the defense for the score. Hassan Haskins' absence makes it tough to say for sure that Spears is the primary backup to Henry, but it seems like a pretty safe assumption, given the third-round pick the Titans invested in him. Henry is a 29-year-old with massive workloads in his recent past, so there's some elevated injury risk here, and Spears is a talented player with a three-down skill set whose primary knocks as a prospect (he may not have an ACL in one of his knees?) were more about his long-term outlook than skills. Spears is an intriguing late-round pick with upside if anything happens to Henry.
Kendre Miller, RB, Saints
It's been a roller coaster ride over the past few weeks for Miller, who suffered a knee injury during last week's game, just a few days after we learned Alvin Kamara would be out for the first three games of the season for a suspension. However, that injury ended up being a small enough issue that he was back on the field just a week later, and was the only running back to get a carry in the first half with the Saints backups in. That still likely puts him behind Kamara and Jamaal Williams, and he was coming off the field on third and long situations, so it's not clear how he'll be used when Kamara is out. However, Miller showed some skill as a pass-catcher, most notably with a nifty, over-the-shoulder catch on a downfield throw from Jameis Winston, one of three first-half catches. Williams is a steady veteran who should get 15 or so touches, but Miller does look like he's in line for a solid role when Kamara is out. If he shines there, he could still matter even when Kamara is active, and he should be on your late-round target list.
Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs
Six different wide receivers saw the field for the Chiefs in Patrick Mahomes' 20 snaps Saturday, and Moore's 13 snaps were the second-most. You'd rather see him playing, say, 90% of the snaps rather than 65%, but for whatever competition there is here, it does seem like Moore has truly elevated himself. Last year's second-round pick had just 22 catches for 250 yards as a rookie, but right now, it looks like he's slated for a starting spot alongside Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a deep receiver who rarely earns high target shares. Travis Kelce is still the No. 1 option in this passing game, but if Moore could earn even a 20% target share, he'd probably be a must-start Fantasy option in this offense. I like late-round looks at Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross, and Kadarius Toney (who remains sidelined after knee surgery at the start of camp), but Moore is the obvious top target here, and worth drafting inside of the top-90 picks in drafts.
I'm a bit skeptical of the argument that Smith-Njigba is going to be so good that he jeopardizes DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett's paths to Fantasy stardom, but please don't confuse that with skepticism about Smith-Njigba's chances of making an immediate impact. He's a very, very good player, and he caught all three passes thrown his way in this one for 58 yards, including one of 48 on a near-touchdown from Drew Lock. All three of Smith-Njigba's catches came from the slot, and he's going to see plenty of one-on-one coverage with Lockett and Metcalf on the field. It's not out of the question that all three are worth using for Fantasy this season.
Darren Waller, TE, Giants
Though, whichever WR ends up the best in the Giants offense is likely to be a distant second to Waller in target share no matter what. Waller had a 26% target share in 2020 and a 22.4% mark in 2019, and the latter feels like the floor here if he can stay healthy. The steady drumbeat out of camp is that he's been Jones' favorite target by far, and that carried over on the lone drive Jones played Friday, as he was targeted on his first three plays and four of 10 passes by Jones overall. I've ranked Waller as my TE7 due mainly to concerns about injuries as he enters his 30s, but if he stays healthy, he might make that look really bad. I may move him up to TE4 – that's where he comes out if I up his projected target share from 22% to 23%.
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Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
If you're just going by the snap counts, there isn't much to be concerned about here - Harris played five of the seven snaps alongside starter Kenny Pickett, while Jaylen Warren was out there for just two. However, that's kind of misleading, because Warren ended one drive in impressive fashion by breaking a 62-yard touchdown run on his only carry. We've only seen the Steelers starters for three drives this preseason, and one of them lasted just one snap, so we're dealing with very small sample sizes here. However, Warren looked better than Harris last season, albeit in a much smaller role, and reports out of camp indicate he's looked better so far, and now he's breaking big plays in the running game in the preseason.
It may not matter - it may all be noise, and the Steelers may still feel very strongly about keeping Harris as their lead back. However, given that he's been pretty unimpressive in his first two seasons, it's at least possible the shine from being a first-round pick has worn off and Warren can push to make this a committee. Harris should still be the first running back taken in this backfield, obviously, but Warren's 143.90 ADP over the past two weeks makes him one of the most obvious values among the RB handcuff class.
Zamir White, RB, Raiders
White played five snaps with the first-team offense Saturday and ran just one route on them, and I'm starting to wonder if he's going to matter much for Fantasy even if Josh Jacobs' holdout extends into the regular season. White ran the ball 10 times for 40 yards and is now up to 83 yards on 23 carries - a 3.6 yards per carry average through two preseason games. It doesn't look like he's going to have much of a role in the passing game, so White needs to show some efficiency in the running game to matter for Fantasy. He's a last-round pick in Fantasy, and he's fine at that cost, but I'm starting to think even a best-case scenario for White looks a lot like 2022 Isiah Pacheco, who didn't have a single top-12 finish in 11 starts and had more than 14 PPR points just two times in 14 games as the starter.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
I don't feel strongly about Pitts being a loser here, but it's worth noting some troubling signs in the, again, very small sample size we're dealing with here. Of 17 snaps with QB Desmond Ridder in the game, Pitts played just nine of them, including six of the first nine, per PFF. However, MyCole Pruitt also played nine snaps, while Jonnu Smith was out there for seven of them. There were situations where the Falcons played two or even three tight ends, and Pitts' skill set and ability to split out wide allows for that kind of schematic variation. However, Pitts still only ran a route on five of 10 pass snaps, and that just isn't nearly enough. We saw enough situations where Pitts was less than a full-time player last season -- fewer than 80% of the snaps in six of eight games even before his knee injury -- that I can't just write this off, especially after the addition of Smith this offseason.
One factor to keep in mind, however, is that Pitts wasn't 100% when camp opened, so this could be as much about managing his reps as anything else. He has more upside than arguably any tight end in the game if the Falcons commit to making him a focal point of their offense, but there are enough questions, both about how he'll be used and how Ridder will fare as a starting QB, that I'm at least considering moving him down from TE4 at the very least, I may move Darren Waller ahead of him.
Greg Dulcich, TE, Broncos
For the second preseason game in a row, Dulcich played behind Adam Trautman this week. The split has been fairly predictable so far: Trautman is out there on first and second down in one-TE sets, while Dulcich is the third down and passing situations option. That doesn't mean Dulcich can't be Fantasy relevant, but it definitely complicates things. It is possible this is just Sean Payton's way of deferring to a veteran he trusts in Trautman, and Dulcich's role can grow as he earns Payton's trust. But I have a hard time justifying a late-round pick on Dulcich ahead of the likes of Tyler Higbee, Chigoziem Okonkwo, or even Sam LaPorta or Luke Musgrave right now.
Injuries, news and notes
Cooper Kupp should be back at practice this week
Kupp has been out since early in training camp with a hamstring injury, but it was never really expected to put him at risk of not being ready for Week 1. Of course, he's still got to ramp back up and get up to full speed without suffering a setback, any type of which could put him at risk of not being ready for the start of the season. Right now, it looks like he'll be good to go, but if you're drafting this week and you want to avoid potentially ruinous injuries, he's the only first-rounder currently hobbled.
Sam Howell will be the Commanders starting QB
This was always the inevitable outcome, even if the Commanders did do a little song and dance about making it a competition with Jacoby Brissett. Brissett is a solid backup, but it would be a very bad sign if Howell wasn't outperforming him consistently in practice. It appears as if he has been, and there's some upside here, with a very solid receiving group and Howell possessing decent rushing ability – he had 35 yards and a touchdown in his lone start last season and rushed for 828 yards and 11 scores in his final season at North Carolina. If Howell is an average passer, he could play his way into back-end QB1 range; he's a favorite target of mine in 2QB/SuperFlex leagues.
Kenneth Walker is back to practicing in full
Walker needed about three weeks to recover from his groin injury, but it's good to see he's past it. It was a little concerning that he was missing time for the second preseason in a row with a groin injury, but this one was clearly less serious than last year's, which required minor surgery. Walker enters his second NFL season with more competition in the form of rookie second-round pick Zach Charbonnet, but he also should still be in line to be the Seahawks lead rusher by Week 1. Walker is a decent bet as an RB2 with upside, but he has more bust potential than you might think if Charbonnet forces his way into a committee.
Nathaniel Dell didn't play due to "tightness"
I really wanted to see what Dell did after his big preseason debut, but he sat out Saturday's preseason game against the Dolphins while dealing with "tightness" – we didn't get any other details beyond that. That seems to suggest that it's a non-issue, a good sign. Still, I wish we would have had the opportunity to see Dell play alongside Noah Brown and Robert Woods, who were inactive for the first preseason game. Dell seems to have a real chance to be a starter for the Texans, but it's not a guarantee yet. I'd take Nico Collins ahead of him, but I'm making sure Dell doesn't go undrafted in any of my leagues from here on out.
De'Von Achane and Jeff Wilson are dealing with injuries
Achane left Saturday's preseason game with a shoulder injury in the second half of the game and was set to have an MRI on the injury Sunday – we haven't heard the results of that yet. Achane came into the game after Raheem Mostert and Salvon Ahmed, while Wilson and Myles Gaskin were both on the sidelines Saturday. That suggests that Achane was still buried on the depth chart, and any missed time due to an injury certainly won't help his chances. I still like Achane's chances of being useful for Fantasy at some point this season – Wilson is currently dealing with what is believed to be a minor, undisclosed injury and Mostert has a history of injury issues – but it probably won't be in Week 1 at this pace.
Cordarrelle Patterson has a "soft-tissue" injury
When coaches don't have to give us details about injuries, some of them choose not to, and that's the case here with Patterson's. This injury is serious enough that Falcons coach Arthur Smith has already ruled him out for the rest of the preseason, and his status for Week 1 isn't known yet. Bijan Robinson is going to be the Falcons RB1, while Tyler Allgeier should have a role as an occasional early-down replacement, but Patterson missing time or being limited would give Robinson even more upside as a pass-catcher.