Fantasy managers were hoping for a bounce-back week from Russell Wilson after his 2023 preseason debut lasted longer than expected and produced disappointing results. Fantasy managers didn't get it -- at least not from his arm.
Wilson's offensive line wasn't great for the second straight game. Wilson reacted by running more -- a 17-yard sprint was really nice -- but his stat line of three of six passing for 24 unimpressive yards should sour people on his potential for 2023.
Too many times Wilson was too eager to get rid of the ball quickly instead of spend an extra second or two that he had in the pocket. Instead of hitting Greg Dulcich for a first down, Wilson ran. Instead of sticking around a clean pocket after a 49ers pass rusher was neutralized, Wilson sailed a throw out of bounds. Instead of connecting downfield with an open Courtland Sutton on each of his last two plays, he took a shorter target in Marvin Mims for 8 yards and then overthrew Jerry Jeudy in the end zone.
There was some good stuff beyond Wilson's three carries for 25 yards, like his on-the-move dart to Javonte Williams on a busted play for 12 yards, or his flip to Williams for a short gain when he was pressured. Those pale in comparison to his good throws last week, but at least he wasn't all bad.
Wilson hasn't been making his best reads this preseason, much like he didn't last season, and the protection he has -- and thinks he has -- is certainly a big part of the problem. If we expected him to run like he did when he was 26 years old, that would more than make up for it. But that club seemingly isn't in his bag anymore -- 400 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns might be too much to ask as he enters his age-35 season.
The line could be fixed to a degree when right tackle Mike McGlinchey is back on the field, but even so it's hard to trust Wilson will erupt for a big Fantasy season when he's still doing the little things that drove us crazy last season. He continues to drop in my rankings, and his teammates have also begun to sag -- including Jerry Jeudy moving into the Round 5 Tier among receivers.
Another wrinkle in the case against Tua
Everyone knows the concussion history Tua Tagovailoa carries with him into the season, and for some that makes him a bust. Even if you overlook it and view Tagovailoa simply for the outstanding upside he has playing in this Dolphins offense, you have to be somewhat concerned about his ability to make throws if he's going to be under pressure like he was against Houston.
Playing without left tackle Terron Armstead (who missed the preseason game with an injury), Tagovailoa was pressured on three of his seven dropbacks and hit twice. The quarterback had to get the ball out quickly, even on a dump-off to his running back. His best throw was a tight-window toss on an out-route to Braxton Berrios for 15 yards; he wasn't pressured on that play.
Armstead should be back for Week 1, and even if he isn't, Kendall Lamm played well at Houston in his place. Lamm wasn't the problem, which means when Armstead is healthy, the problem spots along Miami's O-line could still exist. Plus, Armstead isn't a safe bet for 16 games, and Tagovailoa's numbers were much better with him (65.7% completion rate, a touchdown every 15.5 attempts) than without him (56.8% completion rate, a touchdown every 22 attempts). Fantasy managers need to keep the Dolphins' front five in mind when they think about Tagovailoa's profile. It's not bad enough to keep Tagovailoa from being taken around 90th overall since Tagovailoa does have some sky-high upside, but just make sure another passer is within arm's reach for if (when?) Tagovailoa has some issues.
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Did any quarterbacks do anything good?!
Two quarterbacks who moved up my rankings after this week's preseason games:
- Geno Smith. Even without DK Metcalf on the field and Tyler Lockett playing just two snaps, last year's comeback kid looked great. He threw well under pressure multiple times including a gem to receiver Jake Bobo for 19 yards. Reports out of Seahawks training camp have been glowing about Smith, so this isn't exactly shocking. Given Seattle's additions on offense, it's entirely possible Smith out-does the 21.4 Fantasy points per game he averaged last season.
- Jordan Love. I wrote about how Love was good last week even though he was a little late on some throws and off-target on another. He wasn't late much against the Patriots and was off target again on just one throw, completing five of eight passes for 84 yards with a perfect bucket throw to Romeo Doubs for 42 yards and a perfectly placed touchdown dart to Jayden Reed from 18 yards out. Love was one of the quarterbacks who leap-frogged Wilson in my rankings; I love his upside, especially as the 26th quarterback off the board per FantasyPros ADP. I have him ranked 19th and he very well might be my favorite sleeper this summer.
Fantasy quick hits
- I thought Daniel Jones looked marvelous on his lone drive against Carolina. .
- Just nine snaps for Brock Purdy against the Broncos but he dispersed the ball as well as he did last season save for one play where he couldn't beat the Broncos blitz near the goal line and couldn't find it in him to throw to a wide-open Ross Dwelley. It wouldn't be shocking if he were one of eight quarterbacks to average around 20 Fantasy points per game this season (which is why you should be aiming for 22 or more points per game from your starter!).
- All Kenny Pickett needed to see on his touchdown throw to Pat Freiermuth was the back of the closest Bills defender's helmet and he laid up a top-shelf pass for Freiermuth to grab before bouncing into the end zone. Pickett seems to have made plenty of progress this offseason and is a dark horse to be a usable Fantasy QB.
- Bryce Young continued to look solid, not spectacular. He played smart and had good timing with Adam Thielen and Hayden Hurst on out routes but pressure seemed to be an issue. I think D.J. Chark will ultimately be a playmaker for him. Young remains a two-QB option as about the 25th quarterback off the board.
- Penalties and a wrong-shoulder throw to Scotty Miller doomed what was otherwise a solid drive from Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder. I loved his trust in Drake London to "grab the rebound" over a smaller cornerback down the left sideline on a third-and-15 play; London caught it and got a knee in-bounds. I worry a little bit about Ridder being good enough to support London and Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson to the levels we're drafting them at because he's not as precise or nuanced as other throwers around the league.
- C.J. Stroud had a brutal miscommunication with Dalton Schultz on a fourth-down goal-to-go pass but otherwise had a good showing against Miami. Stroud threw accurately while on the run to Noah Brown for a 14-yard gain and beat the blitz on completions to Schultz and Robert Woods. His last throw was dime that was dropped by Brown. In time, Stroud should become a solid Fantasy starter.
- Two deep sleepers for those in two-QB leagues: Kyle Trask with the Bucs and Aidan O'Connell with the Raiders. Trask was excellent outside of a few red-zone throws against Jets backups last weekend, including 5 of 6 passing on throws of 15-plus Air Yards. O'Connell has been extremely impressive over his playing time, making all kinds of tough throws to the likes of Keelan Cole and Kristian Wilkerson. I wouldn't expect either one to start for their respective teams, but they'll get on the field at some point this season.