Here are the most notable takeaways from Week 3 of the NFL Preseason:
In general, there was plenty of shakeup to the pecking order of playing time in the NFL. With Week 3 as the dress rehearsal with starters playing into the second half often, this set of games offers the best view into team thoughts to start the regular season:
Blake Bortles was demoted before Week 3, but the confidence-building narrative was there this week. Bortles started the second half and made some of his best throws of the preseason. While against reserves and some likely street free agents late in the game, Bortles logged a positive performance. Chad Henne showed little upside in his time this preseason and both are more marginal fantasy bets in deeper leagues based on the momentum not built heading into Week 1.
Jake Rudock is a deeper quarterback to know for premium formats (specifically dynasty). He ran the offense well this week and made quality throws even when forced off-platform. He showed underrated movement with a scramble for a first down and made a stick throw when moving to his left. Overall, Rudock has shown well as the likely QB2 in Detroit.
The 'rough around the edges' moniker is fitting for Patrick Mahomes. He was wild on a few throws this week. However, the intoxicating upside is present as Mahomes' velocity comes easily and he had a 'wow' stick throw on a deep out to the far side of the field few quarterbacks would even attempt let alone rip a completion.
Trevone Boykin took a notable step back from his performances in Weeks 1-2. Boykin has easy power on his throws but airmailed two notable throws early in the second half and logged an interception. The backup job is Boykin's in Seattle, but his consistency is still a major question mark.
The Jets have no clear option to functional starting quarterback production and Christian Hackenberg struggled for much of his time in Week 3. The most glaring concern is staring down receivers and not exhibiting strong accuracy despite the extra time locating his targets.
Nathan Peterman was a critical watch player in Week 3 with Tyrod Taylor out with a concussion, plus Buffalo may be in more 'evaluation' mode in 2017 than strong contender. Peterman was inconsistent with his platform this week and used his arm (which is not great) too much as a result. Peterman being a little off accuracy-wise is magnified by not having a gun by NFL standards, which makes a reception more difficult for his receivers. Getting of his first reads is also a key area for Peterman to improve with more playing time.
Deshone Kizer has had the most breathtaking moments of any rookie quarterback in the NFL this preseason. He has strong advanced traits like looking off safeties, pump-faking defenders, and blending pre-throw tactics with high-level arm talent. Kizer has his share of inaccurate throws, but his handful of stick throws in Week 3 point to being the best option under center for Cleveland this season and the most optimism for the position the Browns have had in a number of years.
It was an up-and-down game for Jared Goff. He exhibited nice pop and accuracy on a deep out throw to Robert Woods. Plus, Goff beat a rusher to improv a dump-off to Malcolm Brown for a conversion. Goff appeared to miss Cooper Kupp as his security blanket as key moments did not have Kupp over the middle as was the case earlier in the preseason when Goff was at his best.
Wendell Smallwood is one of the higher-buzz names of late. LeGarrette Blount has looked pedestrian-at-best, but Darren Sproles is the likely highest value (PPR) back in Philadelphia. Smallwood is not a high-level runner on the interior and does his best work when running to daylight on the perimeter. View Smallwood only as good as his situation.
Christian McCaffrey has all the hype in Carolina, but do not forget about Jonathan Stewart, who showed well early in Carolina's Week 3 tune up. Stewart will be a strong share of the running back snaps and touches.
With Rex Burkhead out this week, the pecking order for the Patriots backfield was Dion Lewis then James White then Mike Gillislee. Gillislee collected a cameo snap for a goal line score, followed by the two-point conversion. Lewis did not overly impress as a traditional running back and Gillislee showed his quality acceleration when given a running lane.
Dwayne Washington is a deeper running back to keep on watch lists. Zach Zenner was out this week and Washington showed improved movement from 2016 and had an extended look in Week 3. If Zenner were to miss time, Washington would be the power back option with the most upside on the roster.
With C.J. Prosise out, Chris Carson was splitting time with Eddie Lacy with the first team for Seattle. Carson won on a deep ball for a long gain. Carson runs 'hot' and commonly wins yards when his carries are close to done. Carson looks like a roster look and continues to force Seattle's hand for playing time higher and higher on the depth chart independent of what the team's plans were entering training camp.
Spencer Ware's injury translated into a strong uptick for Kareem Hunt as the lead back. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller are the two uptick candidates on the current depth chart. West may have been a cut before the Ware injury, but now is a likely lock. Spiller has shown flashes of his previous athleticism and West is a 1B or committee option at best.
The Giants backfield may have the smallest talent margin from No.1 to No.4 in the NFL. Paul Perkins is the ho-hum starter, but Orleans Darkwa logged another positive showing in Week 3. Darkwa had two quality blitz pickups and converted a goal line carry. Wayne Gallman notably has been running as the RB4 throughout the preseason.
Chris Johnson had extended playing time but it was a rough game for the Arizona No.2 back with a drop and two fumbles. His role is not in question, but his 'tune up' was filled with mistakes.
While down the depth chart, Taquan Mizzell is a name to track in deep leagues on Baltimore's depth chart. He saw some situational snaps with the first team and has shown elusive qualities in space. Javorius Allen is clearly ahead of him on the depth chart (as is Terrence West and Danny Woodhead), but Mizzell looks like a strong bet to make the 53-man roster.
It was tough to read Pittsburgh's approach at running back this week. Knile Davis saw a long run of playing time with the first team as James Conner was buried deeper in the game. Davis looked better than the past year or two of ho-hum stops around the NFL, but is still on the roster fringe for Pittsburgh.
Malcolm Brown is a name to know. A week or two ago the backup job to Todd Gurley was up in the air between Malcolm Brown and Justin Davis. However, Brown had his most complete game of this preseason and likely in the NFL overall to cement his status. Brown consistently gained yards after contact and brought a physical running style in a prototypically-sized frame.
The bottom of the Denver depth chart will be one to track. Jamaal Charles made his debut this season. After a tentative start on his first few touches, he eluded a defender to the edge and exhibited some of his old qualities of burst, elusiveness, and smooth movement. De'Angelo Henderson has shown well throughout the preseason as they jockey for the RB3/4 spots behind C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. Speculating ahead, I would not be surprised if Jamaal Charles is running as the No.2, ahead of Booker, early in the season if Charles continues to show well.
Jeremy Langford was back to his No.2 role behind Jordan Howard this week. While no threat to Howard's workload, Langford is a forgotten name with Tarik Cohen being healthier and playing more this preseason, but Langford is the likely handcuff here if Howard should miss time.
Tra Carson is buried in Cincinnati, but is a running back deep name to know. Carson could be a 53-man roster cut casualty, but monitor his status to resurface on another roster, his skillset is solid enough to play in the league.
The DeVante Parker breakout profile continues to build with Jay Cutler trusting Parker on deeper 50/50 balls this preseason. The momentum was there in Week 3 as Parker high-pointed a deep ball with ease. Parker's path to a breakout season requires overtaking Jarvis Landry for No.1 targets in Miami and Jay Cutler under center looks to give Parker a better chance at just that.
Kelvin Benjamin showed well in Week 3 with Cam Newton under center for a few snaps to open the game. Benjamin was wide open for a red zone touchdown as the defensive back run under the pick element to create easy separation.
Allen Robinson had a quiet first half but reminded viewers of his deep ball prowess with strong tracking and extension for a long gain in the final minute.
Julian Edelman was dominant on the opening drive before his unfortunate knee injury. Chris Hogan saw a boost in targets and Danny Amendola flashed with a down-the-seam reception with the first team as cascade notes to the loss of Edelman.
The preseason has been a rough one for Tyreek Hill. Week 3 included three dropped passes all in the opening 20 minutes of the game. He has yet to consolidate the offseason buzz into plays on the field with a golden opportunity for a high-end fantasy season situation-wise.
It was great to see John Brown back for Arizona and flashing his route-running and speed. While from Drew Stanton after Carson Palmer departed, Brown made a couple of the best plays of the preseason for any Arizona receiver, including a beauty over his outside shoulder.
Cordarrelle Patterson looks like the WR3 in Oakland. He made a couple nice plays this week, including a touchdown. He adds versatility as a returner and his roster spot looks like a lock.
Signs of life from Kevin White this week. It is good timing with the unfortunate injury to Cameron Meredith. Opportunity was not going to be an issue for White this season, but playing fast, physical, and consistent has been troublesome for White to-date. The light came on in spots this week with White looks good after the catch on a receiver screen for a chunk gain. Plus, White nearly hauled in an end zone fade through defensive pass interference. While White is still one of the bigger unknowns in the NFL with a significant role in 2017, he moved in the right direction this week.
Kendall Wright is the big name to know in Chicago. He was targeted on seemingly every third down early in the game by Mike Glennon...and successful. Wright could be the Cole Beasley of the north in the construct of this offense.
It was not the best tune-up game for Stefon Diggs with two bad drops in the first half alone. Adam Thielen was sturdy in the slot and Dalvin Cook is poised to be involved in the pass game more than previous running backs. Diggs' ceiling could be a question mark in 2017.
Marquise Goodwin is poised to be an impact for the 49ers with elite speed and a steady role. Goodwin burned the Vikings for a long touchdown this week. Also, Goodwin nearly hauled in another long touchdown in the first half.
Evan Engram has progressed quickly both as a receiver and blocker in three short weeks. Engram broke the ankles of a linebacker on an out-and-up route this week for a chunk gain and worked well as an in-line option. Engram also saw some featured targets in the red zone.
Dion Sims is a deeper tight end name to stash away in the rolodex. With Cameron Meredith out, expect a few more two-tight end sets for Chicago and Zach Miller, while a higher upside option than Sims, has missed plenty of time over the years amidst his sporadic production.
The weekly reminder Vernon Davis is still one of the better tight ends in the NFL. He forced two missed tackles on a reception in the flat. Jordan Reed's health status determines Davis' weekly upside in 2017.