August 09, 2006

Fantasy Sports

Believe it or not, pre-season football is underway and they'll be playing for keeps in four weeks. It's important to understand the fantasy ramifications of the preseason games.

Many players make the mistake of fixating on Week One statistics. Just because a given receiver has nine catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns doesn't mean that player will be a regular season star. In fact, Week One stats probably mean just the opposite.

Preseason Rule #1: If a veteran player plays a lot of minutes in Week One, he probably won't be an impact player during the regular season.

The reason this rule is true is because coaches use Week One in the preseason to take a look at some fringe players who may or may not make the roster. This rule doesn't apply to rookies, who play more in Week One because they are not familiar with the team's schemes.

Remember most of the star players take a few snaps with the first team and sit out the rest of the pre-season's first game, opening the door for reserves and fringe players to pile up useless statistics.

Week Two is a different animal. The veterans need to take some hits and get some game action. If the rookies are still seeing considerable playing time, they may become viable options come draft day. You'll notice most of the guys who had good numbers in the first game won't the second time around — if you see a guy come up with another big game, keep an eye on him.

Preseason Rule #2: You must keep a vigilante eye on preseason injuries. Hamstring pulls and other similar injuries may slow a player down for months. Make a note to drop them down on your draft lists.

The third game of the preseason is the one to focus on. Almost all the teams will play their starters a considerable amount of time. Rookies still getting playing time are definitely in the team's regular season plans.

Preseason Rule #3: If there is a competition for a starting spot, the starter in game three will probably be the starter in the regular season.

Almost all the coaches play cautiously in the last preseason game. That's because they don't want a star player to get injured and miss regular season action.

Most will depart from the game after the first two possessions.

There are exceptions to this rule: 1) If a starter missed previous time due to injuries, he may be left in longer in the final preseason game; 2) If a new player — either a rookie or a free agent — hasn't completely absorbed the system he may be left in longer in the final preseason game; 3) If there is intense competition for a starting job, both players may be given one-half game each to make their case.

Preseason Rule #4: Remember to read everything you can on every team.

The local papers have much more detailed game notes than most of the websites or your own hometown newspaper might have. It's these little bits of minute that translate into fantasy wins. For example, you might read a player is in the coach's doghouse for not hustling in practice. You might find out the quarterback is still bothered by an old back injury. These are notes you file away in the back of your mind that may come in handy when you make your starting line-up for the first real game of the season.

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