Preseason football… it’s like when you start dating someone for the first time. It’s full of hopes, dreams, and… scoring.. It’s the dance between you and your partner before you get serious. Understandably, people might say, “Matt, you’re grasping at straws with this comparison”. Well, call me punch drunk in love because preseason football is one of the biggest pieces of analysis for fantasy before you make your commitment to the player (or person) you are going to draft.

After several months without football, we finally get a taste. There is nothing that gets my excitement for fantasy football going more than preseason. The storylines from camp are the best: the injuries, watching players establish their roles, and watching the chemistry develop. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, Football IS the most real thing we have to a real-life soap opera. I’ve even petitioned TNT network to let the NFL have their slogan, “The NFL, We know drama!”, how cool would that be?

If you weren’t already aware, HBO has a hit series call “Hard Knocks” and each year they feature a different football team through the preseason. Id consider it bonus content and you get to watch storylines unfold, which is the best. Previous seasons have included a colorful list of characters, Chad OchoCino, Rex Ryan, and the best person to find if you are looking for someone to “eat a W”, Jameis Winston! Check it out!

Things to look for in Preseason Football:

As the preseason progresses, roles will be come a bit more defined and starter usage will increase as it nears the last game. This is the main thing to watch for.

Injuries. The dreaded ol’ injury bug. Nobody is safe from injury; just like an episode of Game of Thrones, somebody is going to die, we just don’t know the frequency. Case in point, last season Spencer Ware, the incumbent starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, tears his ACL during preseason. This gave an opportunity for a rookie, Kareem Hunt (who I boldly took in the 2nd round) to seize the starting job and he finished the season as the leagues leading rusher. Monitoring player injuries throughout will give you a competitive advantage come draft time.

Players returning from injury are just as important. After an almost fatal injury bug-bite (figuratively), big name players like Dalvin Cook and Andrew “Neck Beard” Luck are returning to fantasy relevance. They are just a couple of many to keep an eye on during preseason.

Running back competitions. There will be jobs that will have to be earned. Many teams across the NFL implement a RBBC (running back by committee). Preseason and training camp is where you get a better idea of the usage of their backfield as it progresses. Ensure you are paying attention to rookies, there will be many teams who drafted a running back early at this past years draft, they will be competing for a starting role. Keep in mind, players in committees are still valuable and their workload can ultimately change at any moment.

Rookie Wide Receivers. I pay the most attention to rookies in preseason. I want to see them establish chemistry with the quarterback and see how they will potentially be using them. Many of the starting receivers for the league are established. Rookie wide receivers have a tougher time earning a starting role. There are a couple I’m keeping an eye on with a real chance to carve out something special for them. Im talking about the “Double DJ’s”, DJ Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars), and DJ Moore (Carolina Panthers). Both of these guys have an opportunity to be more significant because their receiving core lacks clarity. Which DJ will end up playing better music? Only time will tell.

Players on New Teams. Every year players get cut, waived or traded. Some of them who are traded are obvious superstars who will slide right into a starting role, Demarco Murray, Jimmy Graham… Some might even be workhorses that find themselves on new teams that don’t slide into one, Adrian Peterson… But I want to tell you a story, a story of caution and sorrow. Many many moons ago (2014), a guy by the name of Ben Tate was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns to be their starter. On the Texans, he was the back up to a little known fantasy star, Arian Foster. In his three years as a backup, he carried the ball 421 times for 1992 yards, at a YPC of a little over 4.7, which is fantastic! So, when he was traded to the Browns, I thought picking him in the 4th round was a steal! But, my excitement was for naught. Tate destroyed me to the tune of 119 rushing attempts for 371 yards and 4 touchdowns that season. It was crippling. The lesson here is to ensure you are paying attention to players who have been traded during the offseason and watch for them during training camp. You won’t always be able to tell, but you will have a better idea.

That’s all I have for now! Stay posted for more content to come from The Fantasy Whisperers. Follow them on twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @MPfantasysports.