Why You Shouldn’t Over-Think Preseason Performances

Before we start, I know a lot of people already take preseason performances with a pinch of salt, but I am targeting the rest of people with this who see that Damoun Patterson had a huge game and they start drafting him in leagues way above his ADP.


Zach Mettenberger was touted as a sleeper after an amazing preseason in 2014. But his exhibition performance never translated to fantasy value.

Okay, now quarterbacks are probably the exception to this. Generally, preseason is mainly a chance to take a look at the rookies and a chance for players like Brandon Allen and Blaine Gabbert to get a 3rd string spot on the roster. Generally, rookies lead all other quarterbacks but that is purely down to time played. The starters will obviously only get a few drives or maybe the first quarter, whereas the rookie quarterback in the team will usually play two quarters or more.

As an example, last season CJ Beathard led all other quarterbacks in pre-season but didn’t exactly play well when called upon by the 49ers, throwing more interceptions (six) than he threw touchdowns (4) in the six games he played prior to Jimmy Garoppolo announcing himself. There are obviously exceptions to this. In 2016 Dak Prescott was on fire in preseason throwing for 454 yards, five touchdowns for no interceptions, prior to having an unbelievable rookie season following the injury to Tony Romo. 

The chances are it will be Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield leading all quarterbacks during this preseason. Both players are clearly going to be the future of their respective franchises so I would fully expect them to both receive a lot of playing time over the next few weeks. Compared to Josh Allen, who is still competing with Nathan Peterman, and Sam Darnold who is in a similar situation if Teddy Bridgewater can return to his Vikings form of 2015 with the potential to take the ‘future franchise quarterback’ position off Darnold.

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Running Backs

Aug 9, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Chicago Bears running back Ryan Nall (35) stiff arms Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Malik Jefferson (45) in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Running backs are difficult to judge based on preseason performances. Generally, before teams cut their rosters down, teams can have upwards of six running backs on the team, meaning that not a lot of them will receive a lot of carries. For example, last year [/rofiler]Corey Grant[/profiler] led all running backs during the preseason with 191 yards off just 22 carries. But when you look at his situation, sat behind Leonard Fournette and TJ Yeldon, it is hardly surprising that he only had 30 carries in the regular season.

On the flip side of this, we look at David Johnson who had 17 carries in the 2015 pre-season for only 64 yards. And out of David Johnson and Corey Grant, which one is currently a top 5 fantasy pick and one of the best running backs in the NFL? You know the answer to that…

It’s hard to judge at this stage which running backs will be yardage leaders during this preseason, but I am going to take a stab in the dark at the guy that had a 108 yard game in the preseason opener, Ryan Nall (CHI Bears) or as a result of the Derrius Guice injury, Kapri Bibbs (WAS Redskins).

Wide Receivers

So this is a fun position during pre-season. Ever heard of Rashad Ross? Yeah, me neither. He was an undrafted free agent in 2013 who led every wide receiver during 2015 pre-season, with 266 yards from 25 receptions, including four touchdowns. On a rare occasion, you will see somebody dominate at this position in pre-season and still come through and be a good fantasy football pick up for you. Robby Anderson is the exception to this as he led all receivers in pre-season yardage with 264 yards back in 2016 and was really good last year putting up 941 yards and seven touchdowns in a fairly pedestrian Jets offense. It’s just a shame that he can’t control himself off the field following his crazy arrest earlier this year.

I am not completely fickle to preseason performances for receivers. I do think it is a really good opportunity for rookies and ‘practice squad fodder’ to go out and earn themselves a spot on the roster. But look at Javon Wims so far this preseason. He has been incredible during training camp and put up 95 yards from nine receptions in their opening game. But if you think a 7th round pick is going to get a look in over the Bears 2nd round pick, Anthony Miller then you are probably wrong. I have no doubt that Wims could lead all receivers during pre-season, but he will still have a lot of work to do to get a look in above Miller or newly signed Allen Robinson.

As an extra note, if you can name the guy in the picture, who also had a really good preseason back in 2014, I will be really impressed.

The Moral of the story

I get it. It’s fun to get really excited about a player having a great game during pre-season. But please, curb your enthusiasm. Generally, the guy you are cheering is playing against 5th string players that are going to end up working as a car salesman in a couple of years. Always take pre-season performances with not just a pinch of salt, but with a fist full. It is also highly unlikely that an undrafted free agent is going to beat out a 1st round pick because they ran for 100 yards in a pre-season game.

Pre-season. Enjoy it, but don’t overthink it!

You can follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH where you will probably see me getting excited about pre-season performances despite this article, but hey, I am fickle.


I work as an In-Play US Sports trader, father to Elijah, Archie and Izzie. Fan of Pittsburgh Steelers. Play the game as DT for Staffordshire Surge (Find them on Twitter @StaffsSurge). FSWA member. Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH

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