With the NFL’s final week of preseason games in the books, The 33rd Team’s Mark Garcia and Nic Bodiford break down the top fantasy football storylines from the Thursday to Sunday slate.
Preseason Fantasy Football Storylines
Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles
Indianapolis Colts rookie QB Anthony Richardson looked about as expected in his final preseason tune-up. He completed just six of 17 passes for 78 yards but routinely extended plays with his legs. His final rushing line was five carries for 38 yards, but he had a 15-yard carry called back for holding, which would have left him with more than 50 yards on the ground in the first half alone.
Furthermore, the Colts remained focused on attacking the deep areas of the field, primarily through Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce. Expect that trend to continue into the regular season, considering Richardson’s arm strength and opponents might largely play Cover 1, Cover 2 and Cover 2 Spy against the Colts to try and contain Richardson to the pocket.
Richardson can’t be expected to surpass 100 yards on the ground in every start. Still, his rushing floor paired with an offense likely to be attacking downfield at an elevated rate gives the rookie an intriguing weekly range of outcomes. Richardson is still probably undervalued in early drafts relative to his possibilities.
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Chargers RB Joshua Kelley once again played ahead of Isaiah Spiller during the team’s third preseason game. This has been a battle to watch all offseason for the contingency value of the RB2 spot in a top-five offense. Against San Francisco, Kelley took his second touch 75 yards to the house, demonstrating plus breakaway speed and solid vision.
It appears Kelley is running away with the backup job, pun most definitely intended. Last season, Austin Ekeler, the 2022 season’s fantasy RB1, saw a modest 61.9 percent snap rate and a 65 percent opportunity share. This season there will be plenty of meat on the bone for whoever wins the primary change-of-pace role. As things stand, that player appears to be Kelley.
Look for Kelley to return to a modest weekly floor with the potential for sporadic spike weeks, likely reliant on touchdowns. That said, he carries one of the highest contingency values in the league considering his team dynamics and situation. All of that is wrapped up in a nice 18th-round cost of acquisition.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers’ starters (minus Aaron Jones) played the first three series of the game against the Seattle Seahawks. During that time, the offense ran the ball 13 times and passed 15 times, giving us a good idea of the Green Bay run-pass balance once games count.
One of the more glaring things from this offense was a continued slow pace of play. The Packers finished the preseason ranked dead last in the time remaining on the play clock at the snap. The slow pace of play from the previous two years was likely not simply associated with Aaron Rodgers being under center.
We also got a good look at Packers WR Christian Watson. He was targeted on three of Love’s 15 pass attempts with one downfield look. That downfield pass was an incompletion on a ball thrown into the wind that Watson had to adjust to. Still, it hit him in the hands as he worked between the corner coverage and safety help over the middle. Love and Watson hooked up for a touchdown from six yards out on the following possession on a back shoulder throw to the front pylon.
This season expect an offense built around ball control with a slow pace of play and low overall volume. The primary fantasy utility from the Packers should continue to be built around efficiency, lowering the weekly floor for all skill position players but keeping individual ceilings at a moderate-to-high level. Pieces from this offense are likely undervalued in best ball formats and overpriced in redraft and dynasty.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears
Fourth-round rookie RB Roschon Johnson operated as the Chicago Bears’ first-team passing-down running back last weekend after opening the preseason playing behind both Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman. Johnson’s rapid ascension coincides with a report from The Athletic suggesting his performance could result in Foreman being “a surprise cut.”
Securing the passing-down role is Johnson’s ticket to Week 1 snaps, which puts him in line to fight Herbert for the early-down rushing role. Johnson (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) profiles as a three-down player capable of handling 16-plus touches per game. The stalky Herbert (5-foot-9, 212 pounds) is more built for a change-of-pace role and could be relegated to No. 2 duties if Johnson continues to shine.
Elbowing past the 6-foot-1, 236-pound Foreman is no small feat, and that accomplishment puts the scoring-position role firmly in Johnson’s reach. Should Johnson secure the scoring-position role but fail to fully oust Herbert as the primary rusher, Johnson can still return flex value via receptions and touchdowns.
Johnson sledgehammered through preseason contact, registering 3.64 yards after contact per rushing attempt, eighth among 60 running backs with at least 15 rushing attempts. He was also quick after the catch — among 48 running backs with at least five preseason targets, Johnson’s 7.60 yards after the catch per reception tied for No. 12. Johnson is a must-draft late-round player across all fantasy football formats, playing behind Chicago’s improved offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders
The table below ranks, in parentheses, Rodriguez Jr.’s preseason rushing data among 60 running backs with at least 15 rushing attempts.
|NFL Preseason RB Rushing
|Chris Rodriguez Jr.
|Yards per Rush Attempt
|7.2 (No. 4)
|25 (No. 20)
|Yards After Contact per Rush Attempt
|4.24 (No. 4)
Rodriguez Jr. (5-foot-11, 224 pounds) offers coach Ron Rivera a punishing running style that Washington’s backfield lacked in 2022. Early-down running back Brian Robinson Jr. produced 2.71 yards after contact per rushing attempt last season before bumping that up to 3.13 this preseason. Passing-down specialist Antonio Gibson did not surpass 2.50 in either period.
Last season at Kentucky, Rodriguez Jr. ranked in the top six in both broken and missed tackles forced rate (27.4 percent) and yards after contact per rushing attempts (3.80) among Power 5 running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts, per SportsInfoSolutions.
Should Robinson Jr. miss time or fail to fully regain form following his August 2022 shooting, Rodriguez Jr. has a path to securing Washington’s No. 1 rushing role in 2023.
Rodriguez Jr. tacked on two targets at a three-yard average depth of target, ranking No. 15 among 110 running backs with at least two targets. An ability to earn targets past the line of scrimmage is a positive indicator.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos second-round rookie WR Marvin Mims dominated first-quarter play, totaling 54 yards from scrimmage, two receptions on two targets and a 19-yard punt return. Mims nearly scored twice but was robbed via a face-mask penalty on the Los Angeles Rams’ one-yard line and was later called down on a would-be 75-yard touchdown reception (due to being barely touched).
Mims’ standout performance comes at an opportune time. WR Tim Patrick is out for the season after suffering a late-July Achilles rupture, and the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, Jerry Jeudy, went down with a Grade 2 hamstring strain last Thursday. Jeudy will likely experience a production dip upon his return circa Weeks 3-4 and will carry a 15.2 percent re-injury risk rate, per Doctor of Physical Therapy Adam Hutchison’s 2022 Injury Index.
WR Courtland Sutton will function as Mims’ primary target competition, but the once-promising Sutton has fallen nearly a half-yard short of the ideal 2.00 yards per route run rate since returning from a 2020 ACL tear.
Mims is now on the points-per-reception WR3 radar, kicking off his potential career as Denver’s No. 1 wide receiver.