Training Camp, Preseason, and Fantasy: What Matters and What To Ignore

Many rookie camps have started and all NFL training camps will be going by the end of this week, which is wonderful news for football fans of all types. For the fantasy football game, this is a time to be careful with the vast amounts of news that’s about to circulate into the sports world. I’d like to spend some time looking at how some of this news actually affects the fantasy game. These are going to be general, but I’ll deal with specific players for 2017 in the next post.

To start, I think that the most important thing to watch for is injuries, including how they affect other players beyond the ailing individual himself. For example, a veteran quarterback can miss time in camp and be physically ready for week 1, but that may be bad news for a newly signed wide receiver that hasn’t had a chance to work with that QB. Offensive line injuries can have a similar effect on a team working in new lineman or running backs. Most of all, injuries to rookies or players on new teams can be debilitating to their year one impact. Much of the offseason and preseason is about adapting players to their new teams. If someone isn’t healthy enough to gain that experience, they’re often limited when the regular season rolls around.

As far as the players that are on the field, it’s more important to highlight specific position battles of interest than to react to each bit of news. I’m not really concerned about how David Johnson looks in the preseason, or if he plays at all. His job is safe. I do want to see how things look for the Baltimore Ravens wide receivers or the Washington Redskins running backs. If you’re into the handcuffing strategy, this can also be important in looking at who ends up being the backup to star players. If you don’t follow these things closely, one way to find such battles is to look at fantasy rankings and find situations where multiple players from the same team are ranked closely to each other. This is often an indication that fantasy experts are uncertain about who will be the best draft option for that team, at least not at this point.

Further, I like to pay a little more attention to teams that have new head coaches or offensive coordinators. This often means that new systems are in place, which certainly affects potential player performance. Don’t forget that the person that left can be just as influential as the person that was brought in. Atlanta lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. Do I expect the Falcons to drastically change what they do? Maybe not, but will the new coordinator (Steve Sarkisian, in this case) use the offseason to experiment with some different alignments or strategies for involving certain players? It’s at least worth monitoring.

Lastly, we get to the preseason games. I’ll admit, I watch very little preseason football, but I do end up checking stats a lot afterwards. This is because I’m typically not worried about performance. I’m worried about reps and targets. Sure, a 74-yard touchdown run by a rookie is great, but if he only had three carries and the other back had eight, then I’m assuming the larger-volume back has the leg up for the time being. For wide receivers and tight ends, it’s about targets…not receptions. Teams spend preseason games trying to involve specific players in specific ways, regardless of outcome. Additionally, the third preseason game is the “dress rehearsal” for most teams, so that’s the best game to target for information. That also means that you should try and hold off drafting until after those games have been played.

So that’s it for me. Maybe you focus on other things. Feel free to share in the comments. Maybe you’re just thrilled that football is on its way back. Feel free to share that joy as well.

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