Positioning

Fantasy Football: Key position battles to watch in every game from preseason Week 3, plus injury updates – CBS Sports





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The final week of preseason games begins tonight, and this is the last football we’re going to see until the games actually count. For many of you, that likely means it’s about time to draft, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve got this page bookmarked, because it has everything you need from the Fantasy Football Today team before you draft. 
If you’re wondering who I suggest you draft, my updated rankings for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end are right here. Before the weekend is out, we’ll have our printable cheat sheet ready to be downloaded for those of you who prefer a more tactile feel, and I’ll have my latest top-200 rankings ready to go for tomorrow’s newsletter as well. 

It’s all about getting you ready to draft, but those of you who don’t draft this weekend will have the added luxury of waiting out the preseason schedule — let’s cross our fingers now for no injuries. We’ll have some clarity on position battles and roster crunches after this weekend, and in today’s newsletter, I’ve got a viewing guide for every preseason game so you know exactly what to pay attention to as you follow along this week. League-winning depth chart moves could happen this weekend, and you don’t want to miss it. 
You also want to make sure you don’t miss out the Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon, coming to CBS Sports HQ and the Fantasy Football Today YouTube channel on Aug. 31. We’ll be live on CBS Sports HQ at 6 p.m. and then switching over to YouTube at 8 p.m. until midnight, and the whole point is to answer as many of your questions as we can. You can also send your questions to Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com with the subject line “#AskFFT” to get some answers in an upcoming mailbag column right here in the FFT newsletter. 
ALSO! There are two more fun events you can participate in around the Draft-A-Thon. This Monday, 8/29 at 8 p.m. ET, we will be hosting a Draft-A-Thon FFT Poker Tournament will all proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. You can also join our FFT Best Ball Invitational! For details on how to join both please DM @DanSchneierNFL on Twitter ASAP and he will get you set up ASAP.
These are the most important days of the preseason, so let’s make sure you know what to watch this weekend. 
Here’s your viewing guide for the last round of preseason action. 
Packers at Chiefs All of the wide receivers
These are probably two of the most wide-open (and high-profile) receiving groups in the NFL, and so much still feels unsettled. Partially, that is because of injuries – to Packers second-round pick Christian Watson, new Chiefs presumed No. 1 JuJu Smith-Schuster, and returning third-year man Mecole Hardman. But it’s also because both teams lost two of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and those kinds of absences leave gigantic question marks in their wake, the kinds of question marks that a few weeks of training camp reports and sporadic preseason action can’t answer.
And we’re unlikely to get anything like concrete answers this week. Right now, we can feel pretty confident that Skyy Moore, the Chiefs second-round pick, isn’t one of the team’s top three receivers, based on Week 2 usage. It also seems safe to assume that Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb have some kind of role locked up on the Packers. Beyond that, the hierarchies and rotations are pretty much unknown. And the stakes are, obviously, very high, given the quality of quarterbacks here. 
Getting a big target share from Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers can be a very valuable thing. But you’ve gotta earn that share first, and it’s not yet clear who here has. 
49ers at TexansAll of the running backs
At this point, it would be a disappointment if Dameon Pierce wasn’t the starter for the Texans at running back. The question is, does that mean handling the majority of the early-down snaps and some passing down work? Or is he splitting rushing downs with Marlon Mack and going off the field for pretty much everything else? Pierce has somewhat limited upside without a passing game role, but if he’s splitting carries on a bad team, too, he probably won’t be much more than a fringe starter in Fantasy.
On the other side of the ball, we’re still trying to figure out who the No. 2 back for the 49ers is. I’ve been on Trey Sermon for much of the preseason, but I also saw a beat reporter suggest Sermon may be on the bubble for making the roster: “If Sermon were not a third-round pick a year ago, there probably would not be much of a conversation about his status.” Jeff Wilson should be active for this one, so we’ll get a chance to see what the hierarchy looks like behind the injury-prone Elijah Mitchellwho still projects to be ready for Week 1

Bills at PanthersBills running backs
It seems like Devin Singletary is the lead back, but in Week 2 of the preseason, that actually meant basically every snap with the starting offense. He had that role down the stretch last season and would be a viable RB2 if he had it again this season. However, there has been a ton of talk about Zack Moss potentially having a gameday role after being inactive for stretches last season, and with rookie Zack Moss in the mix as well, this could be a frustrating split. I’d love to see Singletary continue to dominate first-team touches – or even better, not play at all. 
Seahawks at CowboysCowboys wide receivers
CeeDee Lamb is poised for a breakout, we think, but not much else is clear here with Michael Gallup still working his way back from a torn ACL and James Washington sidelined by a foot injury. Neither seems likely to be ready for Week 1, so rookie Jalen Tolbert has a real chance to step up. Is he ready for it?
Obviously, we’ll also be watching for the Seahawks QB battle, though my view of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett wouldn’t really change with either Geno Smith or Drew Lock at QB. 
Chargers at SaintsChargers running backs
It sure looks like Joshua Kelly has the primary backup job locked up at this point, and there have been some pretty positive reports out of camp about how he’s looked. He hasn’t looked particularly impressive in two NFL seasons so far, so he’ll have to have taken a step forward to have much appeal even if Austin Ekeler misses time. This is a potentially very valuable role he seems to be stepping into, and you’d feel a bit more confident about him if he could go wire-to-wire as the top alternative to Ekeler. That’s what he’s poised to do, ahead of Larry Rountree and rookie Isaiah Spiller
Patriots at RaidersAll of the running backs
There are questions about how touches are going to be distributed in both of these backfields, though there is seemingly more clarity in OaklandJosh Jacobs and Ameer Abdullah have been inactive for the past two preseason games and Kenyan Drake is going to be released or traded, so Zamir White seems locked in as the RB3 here. That could mean an early-season role, but more likely, it makes him a stash in case something happens to Jacobs. Personally, I think Abdullah is probably a bit overlooked in Fantasy since you can typically get him with your last pick and he seems to be locked in as the pass-catching back in a Josh McDaniels offense, which has historically been a pretty valuable role. If you’re building for Zero-RB, he seems like a sneaky early-season fill-in while you figure out who you can trust. 
There might be a bit more at stake on the other side of things. The Patriots actually gave Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson a shot in passing situations last week in the preseason, which would be a pretty big change from how things have operated in the past. The question is whether that was just a preseason experiment or if they’re really willing to use Harris and Stevenson in the passing game. In the past, the Patriots have kept a pretty clear delineation between roles in the backfield, which is why Harris had just 18 catches in 15 games last season. If that were to change, it would raise the ceiling of whoever the lead back is – though it could also make this even more of a muddled mess if there isn’t a clear lead back.  
Jaguars at FalconsAll of the running backs
We probably won’t see James Robinson in the preseason finale, but the Jaguars have used their starters plenty in the first two games, and we saw some interesting patterns with Travis Etienne in the second game especially – Snoop Conner came in for Etienne in the red zone on a few drives and also played the two-minute drill. We’re assuming Etienne will be in line for a significant share of the high-value touches, but with Robinson looming, that is a trend to watch out for. 
On the other side, Atlanta’s running back depth chart is seemingly wide open, with rookie Tyler Allgeier playing with the first team in the second preseason after being buried in the first game; fellow rookie Avery Williams also saw some time in the first quarter last week. All in all, Atlanta had a whopping five running backs share the field with Marcus Mariota last week, including Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, and Qadree Ollison, so this seems like a mess right now. Patterson is the only guy with a sure-fire role, seemingly, so hopefully, we can get a little clarity on what might be the most ambiguous backfield in the league right now. 
Rams at BengalsRams running backs
These two teams are pretty set across their depth charts and we probably won’t see many relevant names on the field in this Super Bowl rematch, but with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson both dealing with injuries in training camp, I’d like to see what rookie Kyren Williams is capable of. Williams, the team’s fifth-round pick, has missed much of camp and the preseason with a broken foot but could still have a chance to lock up the No. 3 RB spot. Given Henderson and Akers’ injury histories, that could put him in line for a role on a very good offense this season. 
Bears at BrownsJustin Fields
There really aren’t any position battles to worry about across these two rosters either, so I just want to see how Fields plays. I worry about him, you know – the Bears have shockingly little talent along the offensive line and among his pass-catchers, so he’ll need to play at an extremely high level and get some creative coaching to live up to his potential. His profile could be very, very enticing for Fantasy, but I’m just not sure he’s in the right situation to take advantage of it. 
Cardinals at TitansCardinals RBs
ProFootballFocus’s Doug Kyed identified Darrel Williams as one potential cut candidate, per league sources, which would be great news for Eno Benjamin‘s value in Fantasy. Benjamin doesn’t have much of a track record at the NFL level, but he was a productive pass-catcher in college with 77 catches over his final two seasons, so he has a chance to step into something like the Chase Edmonds‘ role from last year. Edmonds had 3.6 catches per game and was a viable Fantasy option in PPR leagues when healthy, so if Benjamin earns that role, it could cut into James Conner‘s upside, too. 
Eagles at DolphinsAll of the running backs
There are questions on both sides of things here in the backfield, especially because we haven’t really seen either at full strength yet. In Week 2 of the preseason, Boston Scott got the first shot but largely split time with Kenneth Gainwell, which is likely what we should expect to see if Miles Sanders‘ hamstring injury lingers into the start of the season. But Gainwell would become an even better sleeper pick if we got some sense he might actually be a true lead back if Scott were to miss time. In Miami, Chase Edmonds continues to look like the lead back, but Raheem Mostert also hasn’t played so far in the preseason, so it’s hard to know if that’ll change if and when Mostert is cleared to play. I expect a timeshare here no matter what, but it would be nice to see one stretch with everyone available before the season starts.  
Commanders at RavensAntonio Gibson‘s usage
Gibson was on the kickoff return team and largely played the J.D. McKissic role in Week 2 of the preseason, with Brian Robinson Jr. handling most of the early-down action. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for Gibson’s value if McKissic were to miss time in the regular season, but McKissic isn’t dealing with an injury as far as I know, so I’m not sure that’s an assumption we should make. Gibson’s role has clearly taken a hit since the start of preseason, and while I think he’s probably the most talented player in the backfield, it seems like Robinson has the inside edge on the early-down and short-yardage role. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes this week, or if Gibson continues to see passing game work in lieu of McKissic. Either way, this backfield seems too messy to invest much in right now. 
Buccaneers at ColtsBuccaneers RB2
Rachaad White was running ahead of Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the second preseason game, as the second back to get snaps after Leonard Fournette. Fournette is locked in as the primary back for the Buccaneers, but if White can push ahead of Giovani Bernard and lock in a share of the passing down work, he could have some fringe Fantasy appeal to start the season, with significant upside if something were to happen to Fournette. White was arguably the best pass-catching back of this rookie class, so there’s serious upside in this offense. 
Vikings at BroncosBroncos WR hierarchy
The Broncos starters haven’t played this preseason, and I haven’t seen any sign of whether that’ll change in Week 3, but I’d like to see them out there so we could get at least a look at what the offense looks like with Russell Wilson at QB. Like I wrote yesterday, I don’t necessarily buy the trend that has seen Courtland Sutton separate from Jerry Jeudy in price lately, but if the offense comes out, plays four or five drives and Wilson keys in on Sutton instead of Jeudy, it’d be a lot easier to buy that. 
Giants at JetsJets RB split
The expectation should still be that Breece Hall will be the lead back for the Jets this season, but early indications from preseason action indicate he certainly won’t dominate snaps. Michael Carter has arguably had a more prominent role with the first-team offense, and was even inactive for Week 2 along with some of the other starters. Don’t freak out if Hall isn’t the Week 1 starter, but I would feel better about him as an early-season option if he was used more like the RB1 this week. For what it’s worth, long-time Jets beat writer Rich Cimini of ESPN says Carter is “still RB1.”
Lions at SteelersSteelers WR hierarchy
George Pickens has been the talk of preseason and training camp in Pittsburgh, and it seems like he’s already locked up a starting job for the Steelers. In fact, he might have already pushed Chase Claypool off the field in two-WR sets, as Claypool played 13 of his 14 snaps in the second preseason game from the slot. I actually think Claypool could be really interesting as a big slot receiver, but if he’s going to be on the field less than Pickens and Diontae Johnson, I think he might deserve to be drafted third of them. 
One trend you’ll notice if you follow training camp reporting in the NFL these days is how much less information you have access from a lot of teams than we used to. An example of that can be seen in Miami, where Jaylen Waddle has apparently missed a decent amount of time over the past few weeks in practice with an undisclosed right leg injury, something CBS Fantasy’s Dave Richard noted in his visit to a Dolphins-Eagles joint practice Wednesday.
Waddle had his leg wrapped and was limited to stretching on the side, and coach Mike McDaniel acknowledged that they are being cautious with Waddle to prevent a further injury. Waddle has been sidelined for a couple of weeks with the injury, and while all indications at this point are that the injury isn’t considered serious, it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. 
McDaniel is a new head coach, and we don’t quite know what to expect from him – is he a Pete Carroll type, who is always overwhelmingly optimistic, to the point where you don’t actually know whether to take anything he says at face value? He had plenty of praise for Waddle, as you can read in Dave’s piece from practice, which also noted that new Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill was “uncoverable, constantly shaking loose from coverage when he cut and speeding past defenders on downfield routes.”
Hill is still being drafted as a top-12 WR while Waddle is more of a WR2 coming off an excellent rookie season, but there are concerns about both – Jamey Eisenberg had Waddle as a bust pick even before this injury. The injury certainly doesn’t help his chances, even if it isn’t a serious issue at this point. 
Waller has missed much of training camp with his injury, though it’s not actually clear how serious the issue is – Waller is engaged in contract negotiations with the team and it’s possible this is a de facto hold-in. For what it’s worth, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels has been pretty tight-lipped about Waller’s status, telling reporters he isn’t concerned about Waller but “said he didn’t feel comfortable making a prediction about his status for the Raiders regular-season opener against the Chargers,” per The Athletic’s Tashan Reed. I’m not too worried about Waller’s health at this point, but I think it’s fair to be a little down on him – he’s a 30-year-old who struggled to stay healthy, has missed much of his first training camp with a new coach, and has much more target competition in the form of Davante Adams. Waller is still going around the Round 5/6 turn, and there’s quite a bit of risk at that price. 
Palmer, the Chargers No. 3 WR, suffered a concussion in the second week of preseason games, which is a shame because he was impressive in that game, going for three catches, 75 yards, and a touchdown before the injury. That he was already back to practicing Wednesday is a good sign that this isn’t a concern moving forward, and Palmer has some late-round sleeper appeal in what figures to be one of the best offenses in the league if he can carve out a bigger role after catching 33 passes for 353 yards and four scores as a rookie.
Ironically, the Giants got Shepard back the same day they seemingly lost Collin Johnson to his own ruptured Achilles. Shepard has about two weeks to work his way up to game speed, and with Johnson out and Kadarius Toney still not at practice while continuing to deal with lingering leg injuries, there could actually be room for Shepard to make an immediate impact. It’s a bit of a long shot, given how tough Achilles injuries can be to come back from, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind. Shepard had seven or more catches in three of his first four games last season before injuries derailed him. 
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