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Fantasy Football: Why pay attention to the preseason

2MD2XB9 Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco dances during warmups before an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

  • The preseason can highlight rookies who will start strong: The rookies who played significantly with the starters in the preseason tended to play significantly with the starters to begin the regular season.
  • The preseason can also raise red flags on sleeper tight ends: If a tight end is only playing a specific role in the offense in the preseason, at best, they will only have that role in the regular season.
  • You need to know what to ignore: There are plenty of things in the preseason that might seem like a problem, but it probably isn’t.

Estimated Reading Time: 13 minutes

We are about to start three straight weeks of preseason football. The preseason isn’t the most exciting, and it’s not going to matter for several players, including most players that will get drafted early in drafts.

However, there are plenty of pieces of information to gain based on how teams are using their players in the preseason that could impact how players are viewed for fantasy drafts, particularly those late in drafts. 

After going through my last few years of preseason game recaps, here are common examples of reasons a player could move up and down the fantasy rankings outside of injuries as well as situations that could seem bad for a player but really isn’t. While I am relatively happy with my track record on comments from these articles and there will always be some misses, I will also acknowledge my consistent misses and where I’ll improve for the recaps this season.

All pieces of information can be found in my recaps from past years, with most coming from my 10 biggest reactions to Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3. All ADPs mentioned in the article are from Underdog Fantasy's best ball drafts.


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Pay attention to

Running back rotations with the starters

When teams are using their starters in the preseason, the rotation at running back could indicate how they are used in the regular season.

  • D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams rotated snaps with the Detroit Lions when they used their starters, with neither running back staying on the field for more than two plays in a row. This was a sign the two were closer together than most thought.
  • Swift was the ninth running back off the board in fantasy drafts and Jamaal Williams was 50th, but they both finished between 13-14 fantasy points per game.
  • Brian Robinson was the early down back in the Washington Commanders‘ second preseason game with Antonio Gibson taking the third down role. This was similar to how the running backs were used in the season when both were healthy.
  • The New England Patriots rotated their running backs by drive in the second preseason game, which was noteworthy because, in the past, they rotated by situation. This meant both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson played on third downs. This raised both players' upside because there was at least a chance they could play on third downs.
  • In the regular season, Stevenson eventually won the third down role.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs used seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco significantly with the starters in their second preseason game. This was both a sign to take a chance on Pacheco, as well as a sign to be low on Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • Pacheco eventually went on to become the starter.

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