Fantasy Football 2013: What Did We Learn from Saturday's Preseason Week 3 Games?
Usually Week 3 of the preseason is when we get a long look at the starters for NFL teams and consequently, our fantasy teams.
Sometimes the glimpse we get is ugly. Case in point, the New York Jets and their quarterback "battle" between Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez. Smith threw three interceptions and caused a safety while Sanchez was put in during the fourth quarter, fumbled and then injured his shoulder.
Of course, we learned something there as well.
Never draft a Jets quarterback in fantasy.
What else did we learn? Let's find out.
Michael Vick Shows You the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Michael Vick is a guy who frustrates the heck out of most fantasy GMs.
At 33 he's still one of the most athletically gifted players in the league. He's also always hurt, so you never have him for a full season, nor see his full potential. Last year he turned the ball over all the time.
We saw it all on display again Saturday night. The good, bad and ugly.
The Good was his 15 for 23 effort resulting in 184 yards and a touchdown. The Good was his ability to take advantage of head coach Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense to keep the defense off-balance, especially at the start of the second half.
The Bad were the moments he held the ball way too long, didn't set his feet and made poor decisions to throw balls he never should have.
The Ugly was partially about Vick and partially about the team. For Vick it was his fumble and interception. After a season where he fumbled the ball 11 times and threw 10 interceptions, he can't afford to make many mistakes.
On the interception, Vick threw a ball under pressure off of his back foot. It needed to be tossed out of bounds or totally clear from any player, but instead it floated right to Dwayne Gratz for a turnover.
Vick did that more than once, throwing the ball away poorly.
The offensive line was also part of The Ugly, allowing two sacks and seven quarterback hits in just two quarters. If you want to know why Vick is often hurt, that line is part of the reason.
With Michael Vick you get some fantastic fantasy numbers for part of a season. You also get a lot of turnovers and several missed games as well as a lot of unfulfilled promise.
Montee Ball Might Be the Only Back in Denver Worth Having
This is not to say Montee Ball is Rookie of the Year material because he's not. He will, however, get a ton of red zone looks.
As has been the case all summer, Ball had a poor yards per carry average (just 3.1 Saturday, which is awful), but got the short yardage touchdown. Ronnie Hillman looked better running the ball and was much more effective overall.
Well, until the San Diego State alum coughed up the ball on Denver's own 13 yard line which St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree returned for a touchdown.
Hillman is likely to reside in head coach John Fox's dog house for some time, giving way to Knowhon Moreno in terms of touches. However, Ball will continue to get the short yardage touches and touchdowns.
Don't trust Moreno, who has wilted virtually every time he got a starting gig. Don't trust Hillman, much as I hate to say it, because he keeps putting the ball on the turf, which is a huge Fox no-no.
Trust in Montee Ball to get you some touchdowns though, capping off many a drive led by Peyton Manning.
Andrew Luck Is a Top Ten Fantasy Quarterback
Andrew Luck has none of these problems and heading into his second season as starter for the Indianapolis Colts, Luck is a safe bet to replicate his 2012 season.
Griffin, Wilson and Kaepernick have more upside, but this year the risk on them is a bit higher as well.
While any of the above quarterbacks would be solid fantasy prospects, Luck is just in the most stable and reliable situation.
While he did turn the ball over Saturday night, he also showed great poise and accuracy overall. He spreads the ball out across several receivers which makes it tough for defenders to key on any one guy.
If you were concerned he wasn't going to put up good numbers, or were blinded by the upside of a Griffin or Wilson, don't be. If you're going to reach for one of the new "Young Guns," Luck is the guy you want.
C.J. Spiller Is a Top Five Fantasy Back
While the rest of the offense is a huge concern, C.J. Spiller just keeps on making plays.
So far, everyone has known he's getting the ball on every down and he still is averaging well over four yards per carry, and while he hasn't caught any passes in the preseason, that will change for sure in the regular season.
Spiller is a fantastic player and appears to be one of those transcendent stars who is not held back by the struggles of his offense.
You can take him early and know you're getting a quality player.
You May Want to Stash Kirk Cousins on Your Bench Somewhere
With Kirk Cousins hurt, the Washington Redskins started Rex Grossman and you know what? He was pretty darn good.
This weekend has seen injuries to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets' starters as well as some underwhelming play by quarterbacks in Oakland, Jacksonville, and San Diego.
As much as Washington needs a quarterback behind Robert Griffin III and likes Cousins, he could net them a first or second round pick, which is something they need as well.
Cousins could be very enticing for a quarterback-hungry team who might make an offer for him. If they do, Washington should think about taking the offer and if you have him on your bench, you'll end up with an instant starter.
There Is No Running Back Competition in Miami
Last week the Miami media (and the Miami Dolphins I suppose) tried to sell us on a competition in the backfield between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.
Miller had struggled in pass protection, but Thomas was unimpressive all last year and in camp. I never bought the Thomas hype, as I had never seen him do anything worthy of it.
Saturday night did nothing to change my mind. While Miller's 35 yards on eight carries wasn't Hall of Fame material, it was solid. Meanwhile, Thomas had a horrid night, getting three yards on seven carries.
While Miller looked relatively clean, hitting his holes and running swiftly, Thomas seemed to be unable to do anything at all.
There's no competition here and Miller can be had at a reasonable price.
In fact, if you're going to stash someone on this team somewhere on your bench, it still isn't Thomas. Grab rookie Mike Gillislee out of Florida. Gillislee didn't have a great day running, but he was better than Thomas and added 33 yards on three receptions.
If Miller stumbles or gets hurt, Gillislee is going to be the guy you want.
Avoid the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterbacks
We were holding out hope that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman would get his act together, but that hasn't happened.
He'll keep his job because rookie Mike Glennon is nowhere near ready for a starting gig (and may never be), but that's not going to help your fantasy team.
While Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (who had a rough game Saturday night, with several drops) should be fine that won't translate to good fantasy numbers for Freeman.
Freeman is just too inconsistent to trust, even as a backup on your fantasy team and Glennon is even more erratic.
Just avoid the whole mess and you'll be happier.
With Ryan Mathews the Problem Has Never Been Talent
Aside from an ugly fumble, Ryan Mathews had a solid Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Overall he's had a good preseason and looked much more sure of himself at the line of scrimmage, no longer dancing at the hole.
The problem with Mathews has never been talent. He's got plenty of that.
His problem is he also has a long track record of injury. Sure he looks good this preseason, but do you feel confident he's going to last the season?
On top of that this is a team which looks like it will be behind a lot, which means more of Danny Woodhead and less of Mathews.
So maybe he won't get hurt because he'll be on the sideline too much.
Either way, it's best to avoid him.
Jared Cook Is in for a Huge Season
Tight end Jared Cook might be more productive than both of them though.
Bradford and Cook looked like they were clicking perfectly Saturday night. When you think about how early you have to go for a stud tight end, while Cook is often around in the 10th round, you have to realize how much better an investment he is.
Until Saturday, Cook has had a really quiet preseason and that's great. People will overlook him because of it.
Which means he'll be yours for a song and you can laugh all the way to a fantasy championship.
Chris Johnson Is Back
It is really, really hard to get over the fact that Chris Johnson has burned most fantasy GMs over the last few years.
You're going to want to do it anyway.
While quarterback is still an issue for Tennessee, running back isn't. Johnson has rediscovered the step we thought he had lost and so far has looked fantastic in preseason.
For a guy who has the talent to be an elite back (fantasy or NFL), Johnson has become a guy who GMs avoid like the plague. Understandably so, since picking him high cost a lot of teams over the years.
This year though, with a new offensive line and a chip on his shoulder, he will be a consistent force for your fantasy team.
If He Can Hang onto the Ball, David Wilson Is a Top Ten Fantasy Back
All it took was one 84 yard touchdown run to get fantasy GMs excited again about New York Giants running back David Wilson.
Wilson didn't add a lot to it, but he didn't need to. He's done a solid job in preseason both running between the tackles and catching the ball (although the latter part of his game wasn't all that productive Saturday).
Andre Brown was a threat to Wilson's carries but has looked pretty ordinary after a nice Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So he won't be stealing many carries from Wilson. Last season saw some fumbling issues early on for the Virginia Tech product, but he overcame them and that appears to be continuing.
If that's the case and he can stay out of head coach Tom Coughlin's dog house, Wilson could be in for a big season.
Alex Smith Will Not Hurt His Receivers
Alex Smith dinks and dunks his way down the field and that's fine for NFL games (and some point-per-reception leagues), but he doesn't exactly excite fantasy GMs.
In fact, I've talked to many GMs who are worried about what he might do to Dwayne Bowe's production.
Well, don't worry.
It's become clear that Bowe (and Donnie Avery) are not going to be hurt by Smith's lack of downfield production. Sure, he won't go deep, but Bowe and Avery don't need him to.
Both have been effective with Smith as is.
So if you are hesitating on Bowe or Avery because of Smith, don't. He'll do more than enough to keep both receivers viable options for your fantasy team.
Larry Fitzgerald Will Not Score Double Digit Touchdowns Again This Year
I had high hopes for Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer this year but so far this preseason, it's been a disappointment. While Fitzgerald may get the yards, he won't get touchdowns, which is going to keep him out of the echelons of elite fantasy wide receivers.
The more we see the Cardinals' offense, the more it looks like they will fall short of the end zone way too much.
Fitzgerald has been wasted in Arizona and it is unfortunate.
If you take him as a primary wide receiver, that too will be a waste. He's a No. 2 receiver for fantasy purposes, and until he leaves or the Cardinals get a real team around him, he will remain that way.
Dez Bryant Could Be the Best Fantasy Wide Receiver in 2013
We know Dez Bryant is one of the best fantasy receivers, but this is the year he becomes the best.
Bryant has had a good preseason and looks poised to take a huge leap forward.
Sure, Calvin Johnson is likely going to get more yards and A.J. Green more catches, but Megatron hasn't been seeing enough touchdowns and Green isn't putting up the same amount of yards.
Bryant is the complete package right now. Despite Miles Austin and Jason Witten, he is the top end zone target for the Cowboys and Tony Romo. He has improved his overall focus on the game and is doing a better job running his routes and catching the ball.
Bryant is really just getting started, which is scary for the other teams in the NFC.
But great for fantasy GMs.
Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Brent Celek Is a Great Sleeper
With Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn on injured reserve, the Philadelphia Eagles need playmakers. Sure, they have DeSean Jackson and it appears Riley Cooper will step into the No. 2 role, but someone to keep an eye on is tight end Brent Celek.
Celek had a breakout game Saturday night, netting 54 yards on four catches and looking like a favorite target for Michael Vick.
We know that head coach Chip Kelly likes to use his tight ends and the rapid pace of his offense lends itself to short passes, which Celek is good at executing.
Celek showed a lot of promise in 2011, but faded last season. He has a ton to prove, and it appears he may be well on his way to doing so.
If you're waiting on a tight end there are a lot of intriguing prospects. The Patriots' Zach Sudfeld, Cleveland's Jordan Cameron and the New York Giants' Brandon Myers all have the ability to produce at the tight end position.
Celek is much further under the radar than any of them and therefore cheaper for you to acquire.
The payoff could be huge.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.