2022 Dynasty/Fantasy Preseason Week 3 Game Report: Titans 26, Cardinals 23 (In-Season Subscriber's Only)
These two teams ran their 2nd/3rd teams at each other, but the difference between these two was super OBVIOUS…Tennessee has way more young talent and developmental talent than the Cardinals. The Cards are not in the Titans class now, nor in the trajectory for the future.
My first three player notes out of the gates here are focused on the Titans young talent in different spots. Then the following two notes wrap up with Cardinals disappointing young talent, or the way Arizona handled it.
First, glowing, nuclear praise for the Titans young players…and the Titans in general, who have now become one of my favorite/most respected teams.
Dynasty/Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Malik Willis (15-23 for 131 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, 4-79-0) is Michael Vick reincarnated…and he got upgraded in the reincarnation event. It was speculation before by me (about the Vick projection) -- but after watching the preseason, it’s just a fact.
Take Michael Vick, squeeze out all the mental/off-field problems and then replace those problems with meticulous, holy character traits -- and you have the better Michael Vick. The way better Michael Vick.
Yes, Willis is not Tom Brady in the pocket…Willis cannot do what Brady does. But Brady cannot do what Willis does…so Willis doesn’t have to be Brady in the pocket, for the NFL or for FF. There will be growing/passer pains but what Willis lacks as a passer right now…he makes up with pure playmaking ability.
Willis has a chance to be the way better version of Lamar-Hurts-Lance…but we don’t know how long we’ll have to wait for him to be ready/take over. I swear, I’ve seen a lot of good running QBs in my day…Vick, Randall Cunningham, Lamar that one year -- but Willis may be the most intuitive, elusive runner I’ve ever laid my eyes on…and that means a lot in FF. Willis could be the #1 QB in all of Fantasy in 2024 (4pts per pass TD).
And if Willis is a running god QB. And Kenny Pickett is a super-sound pocket passer…
The NFL…it’s scouts and analysts and fans completely botched their talent assessments again. Because 2021 was supposed to be this huge year for amazing QB talent -- and they all suck except you hope Trey Lance is a thing, but the 49ers just said they aren’t sure he is (with the JG deal). Davis Mills is really solid quality, but Pickett is better in the quality pocket department. The 2022 QB class is better than the 2021 one. Let me be the first to say it, so when it turns out to be correct…I will have been right, alone, again, naturally. The 2022 QB class is better than the 2021 one.
Look at how the NFL played it: Pickett fell to #20 overall…he should’ve gone #1. Willis fell to the 3rd-round…he probably should’ve gone #2 now in retrospect. Atlanta took Desmond Ridder ahead of Willis…and Ridder looks like the 7-9th best QB in the 2021 class.
Jacksonville did get a promising edge rusher.
QB is everything in the NFL…and they, the collective they, missed it, again.
In Dynasty, go buy up the Willis shares to be your #3 QB investment…to be your future #1 QB. He offers little for FF 2022, unless Tannehill goes down. I know the price is higher now. I know you coulda drafted him in the Dynasty Rookie Draft, but I wasn’t pushing it.
a) We needed to make sure, to see Willis in real NFL action to confirm/to see if he was too far gone, too raw as a passer (as you see Lance is struggling with the transition…and struggling with commitment from the team)…so it’s not a blind buy now on Willis, it’s a targeted one.
I’d rather pay more now, knowing not speculating…then getting him cheap on a blind bet and just hoping the coin flip went my way. We just want to buy low ahead of the right things. Lower is better, but low is fine too. You can’t call every stock market ‘bottom’.
b) And you could/should wait on this acquisition…give it a few weeks of Willis on the bench (actually he’ll come in for special plays I bet) and let people forget about a cool preseason play they just saw.
c) I’m not buying at all costs.
I don’t know if Willis will sit for two years or more. What if Willis gets caught into the same cat & mouse battle that SF/Lance/JG has going on? A super bowl roster…is it better run by the savvy veteran or the erratic/exciting rookie who plays a WHOLE different style?
I’m targeted shopping on Willis not just buying at any price with my new enthusiasm. In 4pts per pass TD…you’re gonna like Willis someday. I may not make a move until October. Or Jan. 2023. It’s just on my wish list now. I wasn’t fully convinced of Willis, but now I see the potential for him taking over in 2023…and the FF potential in general. For the NFL, he may be erratic…but I’m playing FF.
-- I'm growing in like/love with Treylon Burks (3-31-1/3) now too. See, I told you I love the Titans now…and it’s jaded all my views from my new ‘fandom’.
Not really. I chase money and profits, not color of laundry.
When I raised issues with Treylon Burks pre-Draft…about his physique/athleticism…I have to say, ‘I was right’. Terrible Combine and Pro Day (lack of prep in my assessment). He was out of shape for OTAs. Vrabel went into drill sergeant mode on him…worked 2nd and 3rd-team. Played him on special teams. There was definitely an issue…thus Vrabel addressing it.
When all the negatives happened/hit/became evident -- we had to downgrade him. We had to worry. 1st-round picks are typically coddled. For FF, why spend up for a WR who has so many ‘issues’? Plenty of other options to work with.
But it appears Mike Vrabel saved his life/career with tough love…and credit to Vrabel. Had Burks had gone to Arizona (this game’s opponent, and convenient/perfect comparison), with lax Kliff Kingsbury, Burks would’ve not been messed with…he would’ve kept up being lax, getting by on his natural talents…and then he’d wind up a perplexing underachiever we’d all wonder’ what happened?’ 3-4 years down the line.
Now, Burks is grinding. Looks in fantastic shape. Is moving around the field gracefully and confidently…he looks like a #1 pick WR now. He is starting to look like a #1 WR, finally. In 3-4 months, Vrabel has taken a lax under-shaped rookie and whipped him into a real NFL WR. It’s shocking, really. Credit to Vrabel. Credit to Burks for listening and reacting.
You still have to have a mild worry running in the background on Burks, but now we’re finally seeing signs of the dominant SEC guy. He will likely start out a bit slow, erratic in 2022 before he gets his feet under him. You hope he gets his feet under him when he faces real NFL corners.
Mike Vrabel has taken the early lead for coach of the year.
I’m picking on him because he was in this game…but the early lead for worst coach of the year is Kliff Kingsbury…the anti-Vrabel. The enabler of lax Kyler Murray. Imagine if Vrabel had Kyler? Kyler would be awesome…in baseball, he woulda quit football his rookie training camp in Tennessee.
Kingsbury’s big move of the offseason was to make Kyler wear a headset and call plays to see how ‘tough’ it is. What the hell is that? You just paid him a quarter billion dollars. Now, you’re trying to show him how tough YOUR job is? The arrogance…the out-of-touchness.
Kingsbury underperformed/underwhelmed his way out of Texas Tech, and the same thing is about to happen in Arizona. Kingsbury butchered Mayfield and Mahomes in college -- but here, here’s millions of dollars to screw up an NFL franchise.
Don’t be surprised if Kingsbury gets fired in January 2023…and there’s a Kyler Murray big sell-off/trade war in the offseason a la Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz of recent years -- and Kyler starts to swirl down a drain. The Cardinals will want a Deshaun Watson deal of picks for Kyler…but it won’t be there because people in the league know there’s Kyler mental issues…hell, the Cardinals know it/knew it…thus, the ridiculous ‘homework clause’ in his new deal.
-- The Tennessee backfield rotation in this game…
Dontrell Hilliard (1-14-0) will be the main backup behind Derrick Henry, in the case of any short-term issues…and Hilliard will be the hurry up offense pass game back a la Jeremy McNichols the past few years…i.e. pretty FF useless in standard-sized leagues.
Drafted rookie Hassan Haskins (9-11-0, 3-16-0/3) came into the game second at RB…the second game-in-a-row that Haskins has been right in after a brief Hilliard event. And Haskins looked weak/unsure/not as good as Julius Chestnut once again.
Trenton Cannon (3-11-0) came in third, and I was like…WTF?
After like one or two Cannon snaps, Julius Chestnut (9-27-1, 0-0-0/1) came in…and looked better than all of them…as he has all preseason. Why now 4th in the rotation, though? I won’t swear to it, but I don’t believe Tennessee wants to keep four RBs…they’d like to sneak UDFA Chestnut through to the practice squad. They probably can, because the NFL isn’t paying attention to the preseason/they don’t know what they’re looking at anyway.
*NOTE: I wrote this rough draft pre-8/30 cutdowns. Chestnut made the 53-man roster…and that’s a big deal. But I’m going to leave all my original thoughts in this piece, no adjustment to what happened on 8/30.
Chestnut and Haskins worked back and forth in the 2nd-half, almost like a battle/showdown…that Chestnut ‘won’ (on this judge’s scorecard).
If Chestnut is cut, I think it’s Tennessee trying to be slick...to keep Haskins and hold Chestnut. It’s a risk that Chestnut will get poached.
If Chestnut makes the team, as a UDFA…it speaks volumes on where Chestnut is at, regardless of what the depth chart might say he’s listed at. I’m still with Chestnut as the one to groom behind Henry, but it’s not an absolute/guarantee.
-- Now, let’s get to the lesser-team in this game…and their lesser backfield first…
Eno Benjamin (3-9-0, 2-25-0/2) again worked as the first back in the preseason games (with Conner not playing). Eno has continually worked ahead of Darrel Williams (2-9-1, 0-0-0/0). It’s been that way all preseason. Eno is listed as the #2 RB on the depth chart…so, it’s real = Eno is the #2 RB.
I don’t trust that Eno will make a dent for FF…and if the S hits the fan, I would think that Darrel Williams would be leaned on too. And Eno is not ‘their new Chase Edmonds’, not even close…he won’t be in a split role. I think Conner will take the majority of touches and Eno be an afterthought with Williams seeing as much time as Benjamin.
In the year 2022, Arizona having Eno Benjamin as their #2 back is inexplicable…terrible GM work, which is suddenly par for the course. Heads are about to roll in Arizona from top-to-bottom.
Arizona KEPT FIVE RBs on the roster…to be even more inexplicable.
Keaontay Ingram (16-61-0, 1-8-0/4) would’ve been cut off most teams, but he’s Arizona’s #4.
This Cardinals ship is going DOWN.
-- Andy Isabella (5-115-0/8) made a major mistake being good this preseason…he forced Arizona to keep him rostered, so no escape to a better place for Isabella. Sadly.
Greg Dortch (6-64-1/12) looked as good as Isabella this preseason, maybe better…he earned his way to a 53-man roster spot. Good for him. He’ll never see the ball as Kyler feeds Marquise Brown all the targets for the next 6 games.
Side note = I bet Marquise Brown starts out hot for PPR…but once Hopkins returns it will cool a tad…but when you see Marquise get a shakedown deal from Arizona -- then run away from Marquise. You don’t want well-paid Kyler or Marquise for the future.
-- One last quick observation…
Robert Woods (1-3-0/1) started/played a series or so in this game. Coming off his ACL from 2021. And I gotta say…he did not look ‘spry’ or ‘fluid’. He looked not fully back yet. It’s still early and was just a glimpse, but it was noticeable…to me.