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Saturday, August 27, 2016

FANTASY FOOTBALL PRESEASON WEEK 3 WRAPUP: FRIDAY

-It was a predictable offensive walk in the park for the Pittsburgh Steelers attack Friday night versus the always accomodating New Orleans Saints defense.  Steelers QB Ben Roethlisbeger looked ready for the season to begin as he completed 12-of-17 passes for 147 yards and two scores.  Big Ben hit Antonio Brown for a 57 yard score and also hooked up with new tight end toy Jesse James.  Yours truly has grown to admire Roethlisberger's fantasy football impact as the Steelers have become a very potent passing attack the last few seasons but the price has to always be weighed here considering his injury history.

Meanwhile Brown was his typical silly self as he caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.  There is no one more impossible to cover in all of football and with a fully healthy Big Ben, Brown could go over 140 receptions which is insanity and makes him the clear top pick in most leagues.

Finally, James is becoming more of a person of interest now that Ladarius Green can't get back onto the field.  Roethlisberger has always talked up James and his receiving skills and so this is a situation that needs to be watched.

-Cam Newton was rotten Friday night as he completed just 10-of-24 passes for 83 yards and two inteceptions.  He looked nothing like the 2015 MVP, as Newton looked completely out of sync with returning wideout Kelvin Benjamin.  Nothing major should be taken out of one game though but I still stand by my assessment that Newton will have a tough time replicating his 2015 numbers and that they look like a bit of an outlier to me.

-Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins was the passing star of the night as he carved up the Bufalo Bills to the tune of completing 12of-23 passes for 188 yards with 3 TD and 1 INT.  Cousins hooked up for scores with tight end Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon, and Ryan Grant.  There are some who doubt Cousins will be able to replicate his own 2015 stupendous numbers but I on the other hand think the guy is completely legit.  The Redskins surrounded Cousins with a massive amount of receiving talent and the offense leans to the pass.  Take advantage of the nice price.

-After playing very well his first two preseason starts for the Cleveland Browns, Robert Griffin III threw in a clunker Friday night when he completed 8-of-14 throws for 119 yards and a score.  While the passing line was not terrible, Griffin was sacked five times and this is troublesome in the sense that if the Cleveland offensive line can't protect him, the already high injury risk will only be more pronounced.  I still like the bounce back appeal and dirt cheap draft cost on Griffin this season but again be aware of the injury risk.

-New England Patriots QB Jimmy Garopolo was not good Friday night as he completed just 9-of-15 passes for 57 yards.  Tom Brady then came on and led the Pats on two scoring drives which speaks to the underwhelming performance of Garopolo.  Clearly the Pats will run the ball more than usual the first four games of the season while Brady is suspended and the weak preseason eliminates any allure of adding Garopolo in two QB formats.

-An interesting development is taking place in the New England backfield as Tyler Gaffney got the start over LeGarrette Blount.  While Gaffney was not great in rushing for 35 yards on 9 carries, he has some receiving skills and Bill Belichick appears to be a fan.  Maybe some growing waiver wire value.

-Speaking of Blount, he was the better back Friday night as he rushed for 26 yards on 5 carries and also managed to catch three passes for 16 more yards.  No matter the Gaffney situation, Blount will be the primary runner and get all the goal-line work which puts him in low-end RB 2 territory just in standard leagues.

-Eli Rogers looks like he has fully passes Sammy Coates as the third wideout for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.  The Steelers throw it enough that three wideouts can carry fantasy football value in the offense but Rogers is more of an early-season monitoring play.

-How about Josh Gordon?  Guy hasn't played in forever and then he comes off the couch to catch two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.  This is deal with Gordon who is as dynamic as they come at wide receiver and is a top five talent when he is on the field.  While he will be suspended for the first four games of the season, Gordon is well worth reaching a round or two early to snag his immense upside.

-One guy I LOVE this season is Tampa Bay Buc's QB Jameis Winston.  Operating the Dirk Kotter passing offense that made Matt Ryan as fantasy football staple until he left town to coach Tampa, Winston is in line to be that guy this season.  He looked great Friday night as he completed 16-of-25 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns to further make that point.  Winston looks to be on the verge of stardom and he has two huge weapons at receiver in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.  If you wait to draft your QB, this is the guy to take.

-As far as Evans is concerned, he went wild in catching 5 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.  While Evans loses some value in PPR formats due to the lack of huge catch totals, his WR 1 status in standard leagues is set in stone.

-The first sleeper post I did previewing the 2016 fantasy football season was on New England Patriots slot man Chris Hogan.  The thinking was that Hogan could supplant the inconsistent Danny Amendola and become a big PPR weapon.  Well Hogan showed why Friday night as he caught five passes for 62 yards and a score.  Amendola is still on the roster but he could be cut due to his sizable salary.  Outings like this from Hogan will make that decision more likely.  Be sure to add Hogan now if you have already drafted.  If not bump him up on your rankings.

-Le'Veon Bell is a supreme talent who would have been the number 1 pick in many leagues if he was not suspended for the firsy three games.  He had a big outing Friday night as he rushed for 21 yards on 3 carries while also grabbing 5 passes for 37 more yards.  The running/receiving game is as good as it gets but you have to weight a first round grade now given the misses starts at the beginning of the season.


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