3 Key Things to Watch for each NFL Preseason
And so it begins.
The 2013 Hall of Fame game kicks off in a couple of hours and the preseason begins. We may see some of the regular starters briefly, but usually in the first couple of weeks of preseason we see a lot of players who aren't likely to end up making the final rosters. While the preseason games themselves are meaningless for fantasy purposes, that doesn't mean that there is nothing to be gleaned from what happens in these games.
I don't get a lot from watching these games. Schemes tend to be very generic as nobody wants to tip their hands on any new wrinkles they are reserving for the regular season. And we, as fantasy football enthusiasts, usually don't have much to watch for. But there are a couple of things that I think can be learned from watching preseason games.
1) Chemistry between Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers.
Either new offensive systems or new personnel, the timing between QB's and WR's are one of the primary things to be looking for in preseason. Are they on the same page? In particular this is going to be something to closely watch between Tom Brady and his new crop of pass catchers. While we have hope of glorious things from Brady connecting with Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson (along with maybe Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Michael Jenkins, and a group of TE's that includes Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, and Zach Sudfeld) it will go a long way in making us feel better about the fantasy prospects if Brady is hitting these guys as regularly as he did his prior group of pass catchers. Dobson in particular is to be closely scrutinized, as are all the rookie WR's around the league that are expected to be big parts of their team's offense. In Houston it's DeAndre Hopkins; Minnesota, Cordarrelle Patterson; St. Louis, Tavon Austin. Each, along with Dobson, have prime opportunities to make immediate impacts for both their NFL teams, but also in fantasy football.
It's a simple fact of NFL life that there will be injuries that occur in the preseason. Heck, we barely had a week of training camp before we saw Philadelphia WR Jeremy Maclin and Baltimore TE Dennis Pitta go down for the 2013 season with season ending injuries. Maclin was shaping up as a strong WR3 on fantasy football rankings, while Pitta was expected to challenge for top 5 status at the Tight End position. Rest assured, there are going to be more name players who get injured and that will open the door for the guys behind them to get a window of opportunity. Knowing who those players are and what they do with their opportunity is a great way to identify new fantasy sleepers.
3) New starting Quarterbacks or Quarterbacks on new teams.
Matt Flynn has a pretty firm grip on the Oakland Raiders starting job. It's the first time Flynn is likely to start a regular season as a team's starting QB. How does he react under pressure? Is he effective sliding back or forth, or side to side in the pocket to avoid the rush? Does he get frazzled and just throw up an errant pass? Or does he just fall down easily when the pressure gets too close? It's the same for a QB with prior starting experience but playing on a new team. How will Carson Palmer and Alex Smith handle their new huddles? What will they do with a group of offensive lineman they haven't had actual game experience with to get to know what type of blockers they are? Are they taking charge of the huddle and commanding the respect and attention of his new teammates? How other players look at the QB in the huddle goes a long way in determining how much confidence they have in him.
These are just the primary things I always look for in the preseason. The actual outcome of the games don't mean a thing.