Fantasy Football: Lessons we learned this preseason


Rejoice Philadelphia Eagles fans! Celebrate fantasy football fans! The preseason is finally over.

That means no more Jordy Nelson or Kelvin Benjamin injuries. No more carts. No more scares in meaningless games. No chance for DeMarco Murray or Sam Bradford getting hurt either.

It also means no more time devoted solely to Tim Tebow‘s 4th quarter performances (trust me, that’s a good thing…unless it’s not).

Lastly, it means that any subsequent fantasy football draft that takes place as of 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday will be based off the most current rosters and depth charts accessible. While every NFL roster is fluid following the cuts, most transactions do not involve fantasy relevant players.

Something also important to note regarding the preseason: Teams did not scheme for nor did they scout opponents in the manner they will during the regular season. Sorry Philadelphia Eagles fans. While it’s impressive to see the offense flow the way it did in the first three games, defenses were not prepared for the up-tempo offense quite yet.

Take any performance from fringe ALL players with a grain of salt. Rajion Neal won’t be a PPR machine for the Green Bay Packers during the regular season (maybe). Likewise, the Minnesota Vikings played the entire preseason without their most important offensive weapon. Good luck projecting that offense statistically based off the preseason.

Former rugby star Jarryd Hayne for the 49ers was second in NFL during preseason with 175 yards rushing on 25 carries. The leading rusher in the preseason? Zach Zenner with 35 carries for 183 yards.

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Having said that, here’s some situations that might be getting too little, or too much, attention based off the preseason. So grab some snacks, a notepad, and your fantasy football cheat sheets and let’s loosely cover some of the polarizing and popular sentiments prior to the Labor Day drafts this weekend.

The Philadelphia Eagles special teams is for real. Their defense however still has some work to do. Eric Rowe has shown inconsistencies while the linebacking corps still needs to have time for cohesiveness. If your fantasy football league heavily penalizes points allowed, the Eagles might create some headaches for your team.

49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman is one of the best players on the field at any given point. For IDP leagues, he could be a top-5 linebacker.

Colin Kaepernick ran four times for 62 yards this preseason. Is 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula loosening the reigns on Kap? It sure seems like it thus far this preseason. If you’re willing to wait on your quarterback, why not take a flier on him? On average, he’s the 20th quarterback selected in fantasy football drafts this year.

The Bears defense has been a sieve this preseason, which is not that different from last season. To start the season, they will face Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, and Marshawn Lynch. Hey! You’ve just figured out one running back to use each of the first three weeks on daily fantasy sites!

Last season the Cincinnati Bengals finished with the fewest sacks in the NFL. Getting Michael Johnson healthy this year will change that. This preseason, the Bengals racked up 12 sacks. That’s just eight less than they had for the entire 2014 season.

Speaking of defenses, if you’ve been paying attention to HBO’s Hard Knocks, you’ve likely seen Houston Texans rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson. This kid is flashing all over the field. Linebacker Brian Cushing (despite his perceived demeanor) has looked the healthier than recent memory serves. Oh…J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork haven’t suited up yet. If I’m reaching for a team defense, I’m grabbing Houston ahead of every other team in the NFL, including Seattle.

Buy low on the Buffalo Bills running game. With the second fewest rushing yards heading into last night’s game, the Bills offense has been absolutely anemic. Of course, that tends to happen when LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams don’t play in the preseason. While I’m likely avoiding McCoy due to injury concerns, Williams represents great upside in the late rounds. With Tyrod Taylor getting the starting nod, offensive coordinator Greg Roman might pull out some pages from his days with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. Zone. Read.

Do not read anything into the amount of carries that the backup running backs have been getting in Denver. Gary Kubiak has a history of using a three down running back and running them into the ground. C.J. Anderson has slipped a bit in drafts lately. If you’re thinking of avoiding the Broncos backfield, carry the image linked here in your wallet on draft day.

Do not…I repeat do not sleep on aging veterans on good teams. Steve Smith Sr. , Anquan Boldin, Calvin Johnson, and Roddy White have been in the NFL for a lot of years. They don’t need the preseason. I would rather take a flier on them than handcuffing my running back (unless it’s Kniles Davis).

Breshad Perriman and DeVante Parker are two rookie receivers that were not visible this preseason. While Parker debuted in the Dolphins’ finale, Perriman is still out. This doesn’t mean they won’t become fantasy relevant this season however. If you can’t draft either of these two, be sure to put them on your watch list. Both receivers have quarterbacks with big arms. Whether they’re elite (particularly Joe Flacco) is up to PFT Commenter.

On the other side of the coin, be careful to temper expectations on rookie running backs. I know Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are great prospects. I understand that David Johnson is the heir to the throne in Arizona. Matt Jones has looked great for the Redskins. Just remember that these guys have a lot to learn about the nuances of professional football. There’s more to being an NFL running back then just running through a gap. Rookie running backs can ruin your fantasy football team early in the season if you’re depending on them to produce.

Second year New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman had developed quite the rapport with quarterback Drew Brees this offseason. And then the preseason happened. Being the third wide receiver in the Saints offense however can pay dividends. Ben Watson and Josh Hill won’t equal Jimmy Graham‘s productivity. And we know Brandin Cooks isn’t going to get 180 targets. Coleman has flashed in camp, but struggled to put it all together on the field before last night’s performance against the Green Bay Packers. Buy low!

Joseph Randle is rapidly becoming one of my more favorite bargains in fantasy football drafts. The talk about a committee in the Dallas Cowboys backfield is going to shy a lot of fantasy football owners away. But who is realistically expected to get these carries? Darren McFadden can’t stay healthy. Gus Johnson is a rookie. Randle’s ADP has slipped to the bottom half of the 5th round. In PPR leagues, that could be highway robbery.

Tom Brady has not performed well this preseason (minus the whole court decision thing). But when you don’t have Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, or key parts of the offensive line, you might notice a drop in production. Just don’t overreact to Brady’s suspension being overturned. Yes he’s a great fantasy football quarterback. But I’m not taking him ahead of Luck, Rodgers, Peyton, or Brees. Suspension or no suspension, those guys are BETTER fantasy football quarterbacks.

Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a matchup nightmare. Yes he’s scheduled to miss the first four games of the regular season but he’s been stellar thus far this preseason. The first down catch seen here doesn’t even display Bryant’s elite speed.

Another player that will miss time to consider pouncing on is Arian Foster (average ADP is hovering around the 50th to 55th pick). That’s a steal considering the most optimistic prognosis says he could miss just two more games than Le’Veon Bell.

That’s it for this week! Enjoy your remaining fantasy football drafts and your Labor Day weekend. Feel free to shoot me questions in the comments section below or on Twitter (@MGiraldi)!

Next: Eagles vs Jets Preseason Game Four Recap

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