It has often been said that the NFL preseason is a complete waste of time.
Teams can be wrecked by meaningless injuries. Fan interest is average at best (attending games anyway). And standings are kept for absolutely no reason at all.
But while the drawbacks of playing preseason games has been well-documented over the years by the league’s players and coaches, when it comes to the sharp fantasy player, the preseason matters. And here’s why.
Veteran guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice and Arian Foster aren’t going to play a lot when the games don’t count. They’re expensive assets and they’ve already proven their worth to an organization, and to fantasy owners. But for first-year players, the preseason is a perfect platform to show what they can do. It’s also presents you, the fantasy player, and opportunity to see what a guy can do against NFL players. And that, quite frankly, is a good way to gauge if a player has the talent and skill-set to stick as a pro.
Take rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin for instance. The two looked extremely sharp in their NFL debuts over the weekend.
Last Thursday night, Griffin helped the Redskins to a 7-6 victory over Buffalo when he connected with wide receiver Pierre Garcon on a 20-yard screen pass for the game’s only score on his third offensive series. Griffin, who was playing behind a patchwork offensive line, flashed excellent poise in the pocket en route to completing 4-of-6 passes for 70 yards. He also showed off his impressive arm by zipping throws to a receiving corps that could be much better than it was a year ago.
“I thought he did an excellent job,” Washington head coach Mike Shanahan said after the game. “He managed the game well, got us in and out of the huddle on time in the right formations. His reads, his progressions were good. I thought he played well.”
Luck, meanwhile, made a huge splash in his Colts debut, a 38-3 win over the Tennessee Titans. On Indianapolis’ first play from scrimmage, Luck dodged a defender a dumped the ball off to running back Donald Brown, who burst up-field for a 63-yard touchdown reception. The play sent the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium into a frenzy — and set the tone that a new era had begun in Indy. Ironically, Luck’s magic moment also resembled the same fate of his predecessor’s first pass. That’s right. In 1988, Peyton Manning connected with receiver Marvin Harrison on a short pass-play, which Harrison turned into a 48-yard score, for the first completion, and touchdown pass, of his illustrious career.
“To get a win, get in the game and put some drives together is great,” Luck said. “But I realize, and the guys in the locker room realize, it’s a preseason game and things will be different as the season goes along.”
Early in the second quarter, Luck found pay dirt again when he connected with receiver Austin Collie for a 23-yard touchdown pass and catch. It would be the final TD pass of the day for Luck, who ended the afternoon 10 of 16 passing for 188 yards and the two scores.
Although it was the first preseason game, Luck and Griffin’s performances gave me a sample size of what’s to come. Yes, there will be struggles. But there is a lot of upside with these two players in the fantasy arena.
Luck and Griffin have a number of weapons they can go to in their respective offenses, and both seem to know how to play the game. They also know how to win, which cannot be undervalued.
As the preseason goes forward, keep an eye of these two rookies. You don’t want to draft one as your No. 1 QB, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to nab one as a potential backup. Although Luck and the Colts will likely be in more shootouts than Washington, I like the idea of owning Griffin a little more than I do Luck due to his running ability. Rushing TDs are still a valuable scoring commodity, and I think RGIII has the athletic ability and speed to post some big rushing stats as a rookie.
So, with your draft looming, keep an eye on Luck and Griffin. Also, don’t forget to watch the other rookies who could be primed for big roles. Not all newbies will be big-time fantasy contributors, but they can bolster your depth and be of extreme value in whatever kind of league you play in. Just don’t miss out on a really good player by not staying in tune to the preseason.