The Importance of the Preseason

James Simpson

Let me take you back.

This time last year, we were deep into dynasty preseason narrative mode. You may remember, based on the header image for this piece, that last year we were talking about Tajae Sharpe and his nine-catch, 163-yard August as the supposed starter in the Titans’ offense. I fell in love, owners in your league fell in love, and Sharpe’s value spiked all the way up to a top 100 startup pick.

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But as you can see from his ADP chart, the preseason performances didn’t translate to regular season success. He could quite easily be the example we all use from last year to “disprove” the preseason as meaningful action, but what about the rest of the examples from last year? What did we think would happen, and what actually did? What can we learn?

Last off-season, perhaps my favorite article to write was ‘Rounding Up the Preseason Dynasty Narratives‘, where I gathered opinions on what the hottest stories from the preseason were and attempted to establish if they were going to translate to “real life”. If I have one request of you today, it’s to go back and look at (at least scan) that article. The preseason really does matter.

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Here’s a summary of what we established last year based on the preseason:

1. Dak Prescott was the best rookie quarterback in the class

Despite the top two picks in the draft and another first round pick Paxton Lynch being in the running, Prescott was an overwhelming winner in a “which rookie QB would you rather have?” poll in late August. Not only did Dak fall into a great spot, but he showed us that he had command of the offense in the preseason. It turned out to be exactly the case, as he went on to astonishing first year and win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Even though it was “just preseason”, it was a great chance for Prescott to prove it, and he did.

2. The Tennessee offense was absolutely rolling

Again, this translated very well to the regular season. In their exhibition outings, it was clear to see the team had taken huge strides with their “exotic smashmouth offense”. The running game was tremendous, and Marcus Mariota has started to receive some love as a top passer (finally). I said I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a top five dynasty quarterback by this year, and that’s exactly where he is. While we missed on Sharpe being the biggest producer on the outside, we could see the potential of the running game, and veteran DeMarco Murray followed a strong offensive line on the way to 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

3. Christine Michael actually looked really good

I apologize if you thought you’d never have to read a dynasty blurb on Michael again – he’s always had way too much coverage – and I’ll keep it brief. Last year, he was a talking point as he looked in preseason, averaging six yards per carry. And as much as he was a laughing stock, he had he the best spell of his career in 2016. Despite eventually being run out of Seattle and subsequently Green Bay, he looked good and finally put it together. I’m not going to pretend this was a true “win” here, but his play was worth noting.

4. The Eagles’ wide receivers were awful

This couldn’t be more true.

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Note: The DGB ‘Sep 16’ ADP is a missing number, not a 241 ranking.

Only one of these receivers remains in Philly, and he didn’t do anything to prove his worth last season. It was evident last off-season that Carson Wentz had little around him, and since then Jordan Matthews has been traded, Dorial Green-Beckham released, and all sorts of competition has been brought in for Nelson Agholor. Anyone who owned these players last off-season would’ve been wise to pay attention to the troubles mounting on offense.

5. DeVante Parker and Kevin White couldn’t seem to bring things together

This was slightly infringing on training camp chatter and not just in-game action, but Parker could only manage four catches for 24 yards and White struggled connecting with Jay Cutler. I was naïve to say “we haven’t actually been able to see what they can do” because they both had opportunities, and they didn’t do anything with them despite very high dynasty expectations. Thankfully, if you listened to the DLF consensus and not me, you’d have seen the warning signs with White.

6. Jared Goff was awful

At one point, Goff was the “pro-ready” one, and Carson Wentz was “raw”. Then it flipped. You can argue both sides, but it’s clear Goff was not comfortable last year. Whereas Goff played at a high level in college, he did it in a simplified offense. Wentz might have played against nobodies in the FCS, but his “Pro-style” offense prepared him to jump right in. It’s really tough to invest in a player who looked as unprepared as him from the get-go, but the community in general avoided him. This year, however, things look a little different.

7. Terrelle Pryor and the Cleveland offense looked hot

In week one of the preseason, Pryor hauled in a 50-yard pass down the right sideline. In week two, he did it again, this time for a 50-yard score. While we did react, we didn’t move Pryor up far enough and it took until November for him to hit the top 50 of dynasty startups. Obviously, there’s too much risk in making this move until we’ve seen regular season success, but savvy owners should be paying attention to those players around the league making plays. Pryor will have won leagues last season (and could do the same this year).

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There were others that also seemed to pan out (Carson Palmer struggled, Rob Kelley ate into Matt Jones’ carries, Melvin Gordon was capable of scoring touchdowns (!!!) and Terrance West was reborn in Baltimore). The only major note from that article was that Arian Foster looked great in Miami, and Jay Ajayi did not. We all know how that turned out, but we also knew that Foster was on his last legs so hopefully too many folks didn’t over-invest. If anything, it created a beautiful buy window for Ajayi.

Remember, let it all happen. React to the market’s reaction to a video from training camp, rather than the video itself. When it comes to preseason football and real competition, pay attention, because it’s important. Ignore the numbers – how are your skill position players looking? Who is impressing? Which offense doesn’t look great?

So, watch all the action you can (and not just highlights). Be sure to read Ken Kelly’s preseason round ups, and listen to what analysts, twitterists and anyone who’s watched a ton of preseason ball is gaining from it. Perhaps Jared Goff has actually improved and will be comfortable in a new offense with a ton of weapons. Maybe Russell Wilson is back to his best and due for a massive season. And, just maybe, Dak Prescott will be okay without Ezekiel Elliott.

Before the “real” football takes place, I’ll round up this year’s preseason dynasty narratives. Will it help us understand the upcoming year? I’m willing to bet it will


james simpson