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Pre-Season Random Thoughts

By Steve Schwarz | 8/17/23

1) I know we are all excited that the NFL is back, even in its preseason form, but please do not overhype what is happening on the field for the next three weeks. Remember it’s against vanilla defenses, manned by third- and fourth-string players or in some cases by guys who won’t be in the NFL after the final preseason game.

As proof, I offer you the last 10 years of preseason statistical leaders. There are probably only one or two names you will recognize (Rhamondre Stevenson, Chosen (don’t call me Robby) Anderson and Jakobi Meyers. It was Stevenson’s first season, not last year and his modest fantasy totals amounted to 9.7 FPts/G (45th among RBs). Meanwhile, in 2016, Anderson produced 8.4 FPts/G (77th among WRs). Meyers was still in his “no score mode” and finished 113th among receivers. It was also a year before Allen Hurns exploded for a 1,000-yard season. So, while it’s fun to fantasize about finding a “diamond in the rough”, it’s extremely unlikely.

 Preseason Stat Leaders - Last 10 Years
Preseason Passing Leader Rushing Leader Receiving Leader
2022 Sam Howell DeeJay Dallas / Jason Huntley Lance McCutcheon
2021 Nathan Peterman Rhamondre Stevenson Malik Taylor
2020 x x x
2019 Ryan Griffin Nick Brossette Jakobi Myers
2018 Tyler Bray Chris Warren Javon Wims
2017 Matt Simms Corey Grant Dede Westbrook
2016 Matt Barkley Mack Brown Chosen Anderson
2015 Landry Jones Zach Zenner Rashad Ross
2014 Zach Mettenberger Lorenzo Taliaferro Allen Hurns
2013 Pat Devlin Khiry Robinson Stephen Williams

2) You think you have pressure to perform in your job? Think about Jordan Love. Over the past 31 years, the Green Bay Packers franchise has only known two starting quarterbacks – Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers threw for 59,055 yards and 475 touchdowns over 230 starts and Favre threw for 61,655 yards and 442 touchdowns in his time on the “frozen tundra.”

Also, in Favre first season he had Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks and tight end Jackie Harris. Rodgers had Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson. By comparison, Love will be throwing to Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and rookie Luke Musgrave. And you just “know” the Packers fans expect a smooth transition just as they saw in likely the only two other times in their life.

Christian McCaffrey

3) I certainly understand why so many people list Austin Ekeler as their No.1 fantasy running back, but I’m here to tell you Christian McCaffrey will be the better back in 2023.

Over the final six weeks of the regular season (after being traded mid-season) McCaffrey averaged 24.3 FPts/G. That’s above the 22.6 FPts/G Ekeler averaged last season. (By the way… that’s called cherry-picking the statistics).

But here is the truth, CMC is a better runner than Ekeler and equal as a receiver. Because Ekeler has never run for more than 915 yards in a season, he is more touchdown-dependent. His 38 touchdowns over the past two seasons is the reason he’s scored more than CMC. Any sort of “protecting” of Ekeler by increasing a second-back usage could be detrimental and new OC, Kellen Moore, used a two-headed attack in Dallas.

Additionally, a healthy Justin Herbert (he played with injured ribs at least half the season in 2022) and an even more talented receiving corps (a healthier Keenan Allen, No.1 pick Quentin Johnson) should result in more downfield passing and might get the Chargers receivers into the end zone at a higher rate.

In 2022, Herbert was 31st in “intended air yards” at just 6.4 per attempt. That will happen when you are protecting a rib injury. Those numbers are sure to increase in 2023. Said Keenan Allen recently, “Justin has a cannon ... we’re probably going to be going deep.”

4) Another reason not to hold your draft too early came to fruition this week when the Jets signed former Minnesota Viking running back Dalvin Cook. While Breece Hall is still mending his ACL, Cook gets the first shot at locking in playing time. As a back with four consecutive 1,100-yard rushing seasons, this could be bad for Hall’s (ADP 20.7) eventual workload and production in 2023. Michael Carter and Israel Abanikanda no longer have any value in redraft leagues.

Stop drafting before the last week in August.

5) You don’t necessarily need to be an accurate thrower to be a fantasy star… but if you aren’t, you better be great with your legs.

Check out the chart below. The top 15 fantasy quarterbacks, by fantasy points per game and minimum of six starts, are shown on the far left column. Note the three lowest of that group; Justin Fields, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson all use their feet. If you are not accurate, you had better run well.

 Top 15 Fantasy QBs
Rk Player Tm Games Bad Throw % On Target %
13 Daniel Jones NYG 16 12.2 81.0
Aaron Rodgers GB 17 14.8 80.6
4 Joe Burrow CIN 16 12.9 79.1
7 Geno Smith SEA 17 11.8 78.8
Andy Dalton NO 14 12.4 78.0
12 Kyler Murray ARI 11 11.9 77.9
3 Jalen Hurts PHI 15 14.2 77.8
Tom Brady FA 17 16.4 77.1
2 Patrick Mahomes KC 17 15.4 77.1
Brock Purdy SF 9 12.1 77.0
8 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 13 15.8 76.7
Matt Ryan FA 12 13.5 76.7
10 Kirk Cousins MIN 17 15.2 76.5
9 Dak Prescott DAL 12 17.3 76.3
15 Jared Goff DET 17 16.8 76.2
11 Trevor Lawrence JAC 17 15.0 76.1
Matthew Stafford LAR 9 18.2 75.7
Jacoby Brissett WAS 16 13.7 75.7
14 Justin Herbert LAC 17 12.9 75.6
5 Lamar Jackson BAL 12 18.1 75.4
Mac Jones NE 14 13.4 75.0
Jimmy Garoppolo LV 11 12.7 74.5
Deshaun Watson CLE 6 14.1 74.4
Ryan Tannehill TEN 12 12.0 74.1
1 Josh Allen BUF 16 16.6 73.7
Russell Wilson DEN 15 15.6 73.3
Taylor Heinicke ATL 9 18.1 72.8
Kenny Pickett PIT 13 18.2 72.1
Derek Carr LV 15 20.0 71.8
Carson Wentz FA 8 20.0 71.1
6 Justin Fields CHI 15 19.3 71.1
Baker Mayfield TB 12 18.8 70.8
Davis Mills HOU 15 23.2 70.6
Marcus Mariota PHI 13 22.5 70.6
Zach Wilson NYJ 9 25.2 67.1


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