The NFL exhibition season is in full swing and you are, and will
be, bombarded with information and statistics from the games.
Ignore all of it.
OK, maybe not 100 percent … ignore 99 percent.
Pay attention to injuries. It’s just about the only thing that
really matters. Touchdown passes, rushing yards, 100-yard receiving
games … they mean almost nothing. You are not likely to find a
“diamond in the rough.” The late-round draft choice that astounds
the team and media in May OTAs, then goes on to produce great
fantasy numbers is just that … a fantasy.
I researched the top producers during the last six preseasons
(2010-15) and of the top-five passers, rushers and receivers (a
total of 90 players), only 12 of them (13.3%) were “start-worthy”
during that regular season. (For me start-worthy equals a top-12
fantasy passer or tight end and a top-24 runner or receiver).
But even those numbers lie.
Of the two quarterbacks who made the list, both were veterans;
Brady in 2010 and Matt
Ryan in 2012. Certainly no new findings there.
Alfred Morris flashed in 2010 when his
5.0 ypc during preseason games translated into fantasy success.
There were four running backs who made the list, but only Alfred
Morris, a sixth round selection and Andre
Williams, a fourth-rounder, could be considered “discoveries.”
Mathews was a first-round pick in his second season and Ronnie
Hillman was in his fourth year as a pro.
The five receivers who were start-worthy, included; veterans Larry
Jones and Vincent
Jackson. No headline story to astound your friends among those
four. Future superstar Antonio
Brown, however, was an undiscovered nugget who shone brightly
in the 2011 preseason after posting just 16 catches for 167 yards
the previous year.
The one tight end to meet our requirements was the Chiefs’ Travis
Kelce, a third-round pick out of Cincinnati, so he qualifies
as a discovery.
That makes a total of just four fantasy-worthy starters who made
their first appearances during the exhibition season. Four of
90 or 4.4 percent.
While it is slightly possible that you could outsmart your competition,
who is “foolishly” enjoying the end of the summer at the beach,
it’s certainly not probable that all your preseason fantasy analysis
of game statistics will pay off.
The good news for you, however, is that I’ve already assembled
the best of the “long-shot” rookies who might help you this season
Elliott and all other first-round selections aren’t a long
shot) … so go spend the next three weeks on vacation and don’t
worry about a thing.
Boyd, WR, Cincinnati (selected 55th overall) - As with
most rookies, opportunity is the key and Boyd fell into a huge
opening when both Marvin
Jones and Mohamed
Sanu left town. He’ll be the No. 2 guy behind five-time Pro
Green, but that’s not a bad thing as the secondary will always
be doubling/leaning toward the big man. Boyd should be a possession
receiver, who will accumulate catches and yards, and at least
early in the season before tight end Tyler
Eifert returns from ankle surgery, will have a chance to score
Booker, RB, Denver (136th overall) – Booker (if he
can learn to pass block) should be the No. 2 back ahead of Ronnie
Hillman and behind starter C.J.
Anderson when the whistle blows for real. Considering that
Anderson has never carried the ball more than 179 times in three
NFL seasons or two seasons at California, it’s hard to imagine
a scenario where Anderson is a 350-plus touch workhorse. That
leaves plenty of opportunity for Booker to shine.
Thomas, WR, New Orleans (47th overall) – I expect Thomas
to start opposite Brandin
Cooks and once Brees gets confidence in a receiver they see
plenty of targets. He’s a big wideout in the Marques
Colston mold and we know how well the Brees-to-Colston pairing
worked. The Saints threw the ball 663 times last season and there
is no reason to think it will be any less in 2016 and that’s great
news for any talented receiver.
Dixon, RB, Baltimore (134th overall) – The Ravens’ backfield
appears to be a muddled mess. Justin
Forsett should be No. 1, but the veteran really only has one
good fantasy year (2014) on his resume in eight seasons. Dixon will
also have to get past Terrance
West, who is having a good camp and Javorius Allen, but long-term,
the rookie might be the team’s best option. He’s likely to have
little first-half value, but could come on strong around the fantasy
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Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.