Wednesday, December 7, 2022

2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Tua Tagovailoa, Leonard Fournette highlight Preseason Week 3 biggest winners

You don’t want to take too much from preseason performance, which is why Fantasy Football analysis from the preseason tends to focus more on whatever depth chart and playing time-related tidbits we can take out. And that’s mostly what this column will be about.

But I want to talk about how Miami’s offense has looked this preseason, especially in Saturday’s game against the Eagles. And especially quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa played three drives in the game, leading Miami to two touchdowns and a field goal in efficient fashion. He went 6 for 7 for 121 yards and a touchdown, including a 51-yard deep ball to Tyreek Hill that showed off the new No. 1 receiver’s rare speed:

Tagovailoa finished the preseason 12 for 15 for 179 yards and a score, and Miami’s offense as a whole looked pretty terrific – the Dolphins averaged a league-best 29.0 points per game while ranking second in passing yards.

Does it matter? Not necessarily, because it’s the preseason. However, this was the first glimpse we got of Miami’s offense with new head coach Mike McDaniels, and there was a lot to like about what we saw. Whether that will translate to the games that actually count remains to be seen, but if you were inclined to be optimistic about this offense, nothing we saw in the preseason should have changed that – and reports out of training camp have been mostly positive, too. 

Tagovailoa remains a solid QB2 for Fantasy purposes, with upside to sneak into the bottom half of the top-12 if things really click. Hill will play a big role if that happens, and based on what we’ve seen, I feel more comfortable with him as my WR1 than I thought I would. 

Based on the brief glimpses we got, Miami’s offense looks like it really could take a big step forward, and Tagovailoa comes out of Week 3 of the preseason looking better than he did going in. Here are the rest of the big winners from our last look before the games actually count.

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Rhamondre Stevenson

The Patriots offense looks like it could be kind of a mess, and that’s a real worry for me, but I’m pretty optimistic about their running back usage this preseason. Stevenson got the start with Damien Harris resting, which indicates that Harris is still the lead back here, but Stevenson’s usage was promising – he played 16 of 25 snaps with Mac Jones in the game, including plenty of passing downs, as he ran a route on nine snaps. The Patriots have been giving Stevenson and Harris passing downs work in the preseason rather than simply using Ty Montgomery or Pierre Strong as a passing-game specialist. And Montgomery left the game with an ankle injury, so those passing downs could be wide open. We don’t know how serious Montgomery’s injury is, but if he misses time, Stevenson could get some third-down work even if Harris is the lead back as expected. And, obviously, Stevenson has plenty of upside if anything happens to Harris. 

David Montgomery

There was some speculation among Fantasy analysts that Montgomery may cede some playing time to Khalil Herbert with the new Bears‘ coaching staff in place, but we saw no signs of that in his first preseason action of the season. Montgomery played 20 of 22 snaps with Justin Fields, with Khalil Herbert coming in for just two passing downs – Montgomery ran eight routes of his own. Maybe that was just to get Montgomery as many reps as possible, but I’m still operating under the assumption that Montgomery is going to be playing roughly 70% or more of the snaps nearly every week, as he did last season. He might not be exciting, but Montgomery should benefit from a more cohesive Bears offense as a whole and has significant volume on his side. 

Leonard Fournette

Tom Brady played 11 snaps Saturday and Fournette was right there alongside him for every one, running routes on every dropback. Maybe Rachaad White can carve out a role as the third-down back, but based on what we saw Sunday, he isn’t there yet. In this offense, Fournette has significant touchdown potential every week and had 69 catches in 14 games a year ago. A similar role should be waiting for him, and he’s a viable RB1 who won’t cost as much. 

Jeff Wilson

Trey Lance played 11 snaps on the first two drives Thursday and Wilson was right there alongside him for every one. Elijah Mitchell is expected back for Week 1 after missing the preseason with a hamstring injury, but it seems we’ve got an answer for who the 49ers No. 2 back is. Trey Sermon came on in the third drive alongside Lance, so I think we can assume that is the hierarchy for now, with rookie Tyrion Davis-Price perhaps a bit behind. I think I would rather have Sermon than Wilson because I like his chances of having an early-down role if something were to happen to Mitchell, but Wilson is definitely a viable late-round sleeper pick who should have a third-down role early on too. 

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Tyler Allgeier

With Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams sitting out, Allgeier got the start, though Caleb Huntley and Qadree Ollison also mixed in early on, so there’s still some ambiguity here. However, Allgeier continued to impress, as he has all preseason, scoring two touchdowns. There is some ambiguity here, because Huntley and Ollison both played fairly early on, so there’s not necessarily a guarantee he’s the No. 3 here, but that’s the bet I’m making. Williams and Patterson will be the top options early on, so don’t plan on using Allgeier in Week 1, but he should have a path to carve out a role pretty early on, and that makes him worth drafting late. 

Malik Willis 

Willis might still have a lot of work to do to be an NFL-caliber quarterback, but it’s hard to make sense of a guy with his tools falling as far as he did in the draft. Look, there aren’t many quarterbacks in the NFL who can do this, even in the preseason: 

He had that 50-yard run in preseason action along with a nifty side-arm throw around a defender that Treylon Burks turned into a touchdown, and those were the skills that made him such a dynamic player in college. Ryan Tannehill is the unquestioned starter here, but Willis gives me Jalen Hurts vibes because I could absolutely see him coming on late in the season as an injury replacement and making an impact for Fantasy. In 2QB leagues, he’s one of the more high-upside stashes. 

Mo Alie-Cox

Alie-Cox hasn’t done much more than flash occasionally across four NFL seasons, but it was interesting to see him play every snap with Matt Ryan in the preseason finale. He’s typically been used in multi-TE rotations, however the Colts have had a lot of turnover over the past few seasons and he might be the only guy they trust alongside Kylen Granson and rookie Jelani Woods. I’m still not sure Alie-Cox needs to be drafted in most leagues, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on him in Week 1 to see if he’s used in a way that could lead to valuable production. 

Tyler Johnson

Given that Chris Godwin and Russell Gage were both out, I’m not sure how much it matters that Johnson played every snap with Tom Brady, but it’s worth noting, at the very least. Johnson was a productive receiver in college who broke out at a young age and likely would’ve been better than a fifth-round pick if not for some mediocre testing numbers. He hasn’t done a ton in his first two seasons, but he could fit in as a poor man’s Godwin if something were to happen to set Godwin back from making a Week 1 debut. This might matter more for DFS, but I’ll be keeping an eye out on practice reports for Godwin and Gage over the next week and a half. 

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