The preseason is finally in the books and it’s time to shift focus to the regular season. This week, we’re taking a look at NFL preseason Week 3 trends. What players and units are on the move after preseason play and training camp? How do major injuries shift the player totals and fantasy football landscape?
This stock up/stock down NFL preseason Week 3 trends report lists eight players who are on the move.
NFL Preseason Week 3 Trends: Stock Up
Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Lead back J.K. Dobbins was poised for a real breakout year; that is, until his season was ended before it even began due to an ACL tear sustained against Washington. It’s a blow for Dobbins and the Ravens offense.
Enter Gus Edwards. He’s seen plenty of starting work in his first three seasons in the NFL, with 13 games started. Edwards has existed for most of his career as a backup to Mark Ingram, but has handled a nice workload nonetheless. In each of his first three seasons, Edwards received at least 130 carries and 700 yards rushing. His opening line for season rushing yards was set at 650.5, but is now at following the Dobbins injury.
For now, Edwards looks like the lead back in Baltimore – a role valuable to fantasy and DFS players.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
The Saints naming Jameis Winston their starting quarterback is a major win for Alvin Kamara. For those invested in his touchdown props and performance, Taysom Hill presented a real threat to siphon goal line touches from Kamara. In 2020, Kamara’s receiving work plummeted while Hill was the starter – he saw four targets and 2.5 receptions per game over a four-game stretch. His season average was 7.1 targets and 5.5 receptions.
While Winston is hardly a checkdown quarterback, Buccaneer running backs received 110 targets in 2019 (17.6% of all team targets). Last season, Kamara commanded 22.9% of the the team targets. In Tampa Bay, Winston had to support two top receivers. With the Saints stripped down to the bolts at the receiver position, expect him to look to Kamara more often and bump closer to that 22.9% number.
For 2021, sportsbooks list Kamara for rushing yards and receiving yards.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance has been on the rise for a while now – so why are we choosing to list him as a stock up candidate here? It’s thanks to his usage in the 49ers’ final preseason game. Kyle Shanahan, known for his offensive creativity, implemented sub packages for Lance specifically. In one instance, the move resulted in a Lace rushing touchdown.
Assuming Garoppolo gets the Week 1 start (which is still far from certain), Lance will still see work. That work may put him in a position to score touchdowns.
Sportsbooks are reticent to release props on Lance given the uncertainty of the 49ers quarterback situation. Keep an eye on them to consider Lance’s touchdown rushing totals.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
In 2020, Adam Thielen posted outlandish touchdown numbers, especially near the goal line. In fact, he’s listed in TheLines’ touchdown regression report for 2021. His 10 touchdowns inside the 10 yard line ranked second in the league. To put that number in perspective relative to his usage, Thielen finished with fewer targets than Marvin Jones, JD McKissic, and Russell Gage.
However, with the latest injury to Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr., Thielen might just return to the go-to goal line option. While Smith’s injury isn’t likely to last more than a few games, Thielen has a renewed opportunity to re-establish himself as a goal line threat.
Sportsbooks slot Thielen for receiving touchdowns this season, a noticeable downtick from a season ago. A hot start to the season, though, could rapidly change that figure.
NFL Preseason Trends: Stock Down
Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots
August 31 update: The Patriots released Cam Newton en route to finalizing their 53-man roster. Mac Jones will be the starter.
As the preseason closes, it looks like Cam Newton will be the Week 1 starter for the Patriots. After battling first-round pick Mac Jones all offseason, that should result in a stock up for Newton, right?
Not exactly: sportsbooks have removed futures on both Newton and Jones – futures that existed all offseason until now.
For much of camp, it appeared Newton was their guy despite Belichick refusing to name a Week 1 starter. As Jones saw more time in the preseason, however, the gap quickly closed. Jones finished the preseason with scores on eight of 10 drives. Newton led the Patriots on one touchdown drive and two field goals while failing to come away with points three times (note: the Patriots scored a touchdown on their opening possession against the Eagles, which was a two-play, nine yard drive off a fumble recovery. Newton did not attempt a pass).
Belichick waited until the last minute to name Newton the starter in 2020 as well, and the same could happen this week. However, the season-long outlook on Cam Newton is trending in the wrong direction.
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings
Late preseason and camp injuries are never a good sign, especially when timetables are muddy. That’s the case for Irv Smith Jr., who was eyeing a breakout season for the Vikings. The tight end underwent knee surgery and will miss the start of the season. Sportsbooks have taken down Smith Jr.’s props for the season in response.
In 2020, Smith Jr. was targeted 46 times where he hauled in 30 receptions for five touchdowns. Of those five touchdowns, four game within the 10 yard line (seven targets). With those targets vacated, it could provide a futures boost to players like Adam Thielen (listed before) and Justin Jefferson. It could also present more rushing opportunities for Dalvin Cook near the goal line.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Similarly to Irv Smith Jr., TY Hilton is battling injury without a clear timetable. At 31 years old, a neck injury isn’t a promising sign – according to ApexFantasy, peak production for receivers is far less likely to occur after 30 years old. Hilton wasn’t expected to be a league-winner this season, but sportsbooks removed his season totals entirely following the injury news.
In Hilton’s absence, we can expect players like Michael Pittman Jr. to see more opportunities. Multiple studies show that second-year wide receivers most frequently see a breakout jump in production. However, with a new quarterback and shakeups on the offensive line, it’s unclear what the Colts’ offense will look like in early 2021. Past his prime as he is, losing out on the deep threat of Hilton is tough for Colts quarterbacks and, potentially, the rest of the offense.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Believe it or not, Evan Engram led the New York Giants in targets in 2020. For the first time in his career, Engram played in all 16 games, where he eclipsed 100 targets for the second time, but scored just one touchdown. Despite playing in twice the amount of games as 2019, he scored just a third of the touchdowns. For most of the offseason, analysts saw the opportunity in Engram for positive touchdown regression.
However, Engram was pulled from the Giants’ final preseason game against the Patriots with a calf injury. Lower-body soft tissue injuries are especially bothersome for receiving threats, which we saw take out Julio Jones for a majority of last season. Given Engram’s injury history, this early injury doesn’t bode well for the season, insignificant as it may appear.