Preseason football, by and large, is unwatchable. No real schemes, mostly second- and third-stringers, and half-full stadiums. On the other hand, preseason is the first chance we get to see NFL rookies on the big stage. So in fantasy land, preseason games can provide invaluable insight to the unproven players that we may just be (over)drafting in a few short weeks.
There are two glaring examples of preseason breakouts that translated to fantasy breakouts as well, and one of them bleeds blue. I will never forget these performances, and they info gleened from actually watching the games lead me to own Arian Foster and Victor Cruz in most of my fantasy leagues in their breakout year. They past the preseason "eye test," and I was rewarded for trusting my gut. And ironically enough, their preseason outbursts came on the same August weekend in 2010.
Victor Cruz vs. Jets
The game was remembered for the gawdy stat line he put on the Jets of 6/145/3, but watching this game was really memorable. First off, who’s this rookie WR wearing No. 3? And secondly, he appears to be faster/quicker/better than everybody? And he went to UMass?!? I wasn’t sure who he was, but I knew he would be great.
Arian Foster vs. Dallas
Foster made little noise coming out of Tennessee and into the draft process, so he was expected to be RB depth behind Steve Slaton. He started turning heads in the 2010 summer, and was competing for a starting role. I made the point of watching this dress rehearsal game for fantasy draft purposes, and I was not disappointed. 18/110/1 is a great stat line for any game, but it was the first chance I got to see Arian glide. Like literally glide. I had never seen a 230-pound tailback move that smoothly, and I was convinced he was the real deal.
Yes, preseason football is mostly brutal. But if you’re serious about player homework and your fantasy success, paying attention to preseason rookie appearances is vital when projecting their upside. Box scores don’t tell a complete story in preaseason, so trust your eyes.