Fantasy instant debate: What to watch in preseason?

What is the one thing you're most interested to watch in the first full week of the preseason?

  • Alex Gelhar NFL Media Writer/Editor
  • Getting back to backs

Can I just say real football? I know there are plenty of preseason haters, but it just feels right to hear pads clicking again. Anyway, back to fantasy, the key things I watch in preseason action are backfield competitions. Yes, it's not real game action, but you can get a good glimpse of how young rushers are carrying themselves and looking in the preseason. Two years ago, the way Eddie Lacy ran made me believe he could post solid numbers (although I didn't anticipate Offensive Rookie of the Year totals), and last year the way Mark Ingram ran in the preseason made me draft him in most of my leagues. By paying attention to the backfields, it can help lend clarity to the muddled RB position, and help us increase our chances of hitting on mid-round breakout candidates. In particular, I'll have my eye on Ameer Abdullah, Joseph Randle, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon and the Buccaneers RBs.

  • Marcas Grant NFL Media Fantasy Editor
  • Commitment to fantasy excellence

I don't expect that we're going to see a lot of the starters from any team this week; look no further than Sunday's Hall of Fame Game as an example. Speaking of that game, it was fun to see Teddy Bridgewater looking like he's ready to take a step forward in 2015. Similarly, I'm interested in another sophomore quarterback -- Derek Carr. While I don't expect the Raiders starter to be more than a QB2 in most leagues, I am interested to see what growth he might have had in the offseason. More importantly, I'm curious to see what how he works in Bill Musgrave's offense and how he meshes with rookie wideout Amari Cooper. That last part is particularly intriguing since Cooper is one of the rookies who is expected to make an immediate contribution for fantasy enthusiasts. Rejoice! The Silver and Black is relevant again!

  • Matt Franciscovich NFL Media Associate Fantasy Editor
  • Jets ready for takeoff?

I'll be honest, I'm just happy that football in general is back, even if it's only preseason games for the next few weeks. But if you're really going to twist my arm and make me peg down the one thing that I'm most interested in for the first week of preseason, it has to be ... wait for it ... the New York Jets! No seriously, I'm interested to see what transpires here and for good reason. The top three fantasy players on the Jets all currently have ADPs of Round 10 or later which presents some sneaky fantasy value for drafters looking for late-round bargains. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall (Round 10 ADP) and Eric Decker (Round 15 ADP) each have top-10 fantasy finishes in two of the last three seasons. The production of Marshall (ankle, ribs) and Decker (hamstring) was hampered by lingering injuries last season, so a bounce-back is not out of the question. Runing back Chris Ivory (Round 10 ADP) was NFL.com's RB19 last year in standard scoring and early whispers out of training camp point to him running away with the lead back role. Add 6-foot-5 sophomore tight end Jace Amaro to the mix of targets for quarterback Geno Smith to sling to, and this could be a very interesting offense for fantasy fans. The Jets take on the Lions this Thursday in their first exhibition game, and I'll be watching closely to see how the new offense is shaping for Gang Green.

  • Matt Harmon NFL Media Associate Fantasy Editor
  • Watching the rookies

Whenever the preseason comes around, I am always most interested in watching the rookies. It's our first chance to see the prospects we scouted so diligently in college bring their game to the pro level. First, take note of when they play, and who they play with. If a rookie gets some run with the first team, or even trots out with the starters, he could be in line for a big opportunity. If they are still hanging around in the fourth quarter, they may have a-ways to go before mattering for redraft leagues. Last year, we saw Kelvin Benjamin play as the Panthers' No. 1 receiver, and that was a reality that continued into the regular season. In the 2015 version of the exhibition games, we'll look to see if any rookies are seeing major playing time with the first stringers. These are chances for a wide receiver to build chemistry with his quarterback, or a running back with his offensive linemen.

Some rookies of this vein to watch are Ameer Abdullah, Nelson Agholor and Breshad Perriman. All three are staring at major opportunity, but we need to see if they play with the starters, and quell any doubt coming from training camps. Of course, it's just as important to see which rookies are performing well, regardless of when they're playing. If a highly-touted first-round pick is shredding through defenses in the preseason, we may want to project a bigger role and draft him a little higher in fantasy leagues. Other times we're given a glimpse to an unknown rising from obscurity to make a run at stardom. Remember when Victor Cruz tore up the Jets as an undrafted free agent back in 2010? Some may have just written that off as a preseason anomaly. Then Cruz went on to record two 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012, and attend a Pro Bowl. Sometimes the preseason can be the start of the drum beat leading to a productive career. Perhaps we see a Cruz-like surprise performance in this year's preseason.

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