What can we truly make of them? After all, Cam Newton had an atrocious 64.9 rating last preseason while Charlie Whitehurst paced all qualifying quarterbacks with a 91.1 rating. Quincy Wilson led the league in rushing during the 2006 preseason. David Clowney averaged a whopping 27.8 YPR in 2008 as he paced the receivers.
The third full week of the preseason is the most telling from a statistical standpoint. Even if it is a tiny sample size and subpar competition, teams generally use that game as the regular season dress rehearsal.
Take these with a grain of salt.
1. Peyton Manning: 10/12, 122 yards, 2 touchdowns vs. San Francisco 49ers
Real and potential owners of Manning and his teammates were sweating a bit after a couple of poor preseason performances from the future Hall of Famer to start his tenure with the Broncos. Experts even questioned his ability to throw to the right side.
His performance against the 49ers went a long way to putting those fears to rest. Vintage Manning was on display as he torched the San Francisco defense, throwing to the right side with ease and tossing two touchdown passes to Eric Decker in the process.
If this is the Manning we will see all season, he is coming at a severe discount in drafts.
2. Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow: Zero touchdown drives in three preseason games
The Jets offense is in trouble.
It should come as little surprise that Sanchez and Tebow are not offensive juggernauts, but there is ineptitude and then there is just plain sadness. The Jets cannot get out of their own way no matter how many GQ spreads their quarterbacks get.
If you were thinking about picking up Tebow as a late-round flier, or Sanchez because you thought he might repeat his surprise top-10 performance, this preseason has hopefully been a wake up call.
3. Dwayne Harris: 3 catches, 118 yards, 2 touchdowns vs. St. Louis Rams
The competition is stiff for Tony Romo’s No. 3 receiver. Rookie Cole Beasley had made an impression to this point, but Dwayne Harris may have won the job with this performance.
Harris had touchdown catches of 61 and 38 yards against the Rams in Dallas’ third preseason game, both with the starters. This isn’t Harris’ first crack at the No. 3 receiver job, but he could be a great midseason waiver wire pickup if he sticks and you need a receiver.
4. Antonio Brown: 7 catches, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns at Buffalo Bills
The Steelers got Mike Wallace back this week. Does that render this stat line irrelevant?
The truth is that Big Ben targeted Brown more than he did Wallace last season. He may have caught three fewer passes for 85 fewer yards and six fewer touchdowns, but those numbers could be swapped this coming season. Big Ben certainly seems to have chemistry with him, and the Steelers did not just sign him to a big extension for no reason.
5. Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller: 7 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD; 4 carries, 10 yards respectively vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jackson may be 31 years old and coming off a broken leg, but he certainly seems to be close to form. This could be a microcosm of the split the Bills backfield will see, which means Spiller will once again be on the short end of the carry stick.
The Bills recently praised Spiller’s improved blocking, saying he could seem ore time in passing situations as a result. That is fine and dandy, but Jackson appears to be on track for more playing time overall.
6. Shonn Greene: 29 att., 94 yards
Not that Greene’s ADP has been particularly high this preseason, but he has not shown any reason to draft him. He is averaging 3.2 YPC, a symptom of a dysfunctional Jets offense that has looked terrible all preseason. His backup, Bilal Powell, is not exactly lighting things up either at 3.5 YPC.
Greene may have cracked 1,000 yards rushing last season, but he is a plodding running back with terrible upside whose statistics rely on volume. Draft at your own risk.
7. Julio Jones: 13 rec., 240 yards, 1 TD
There is a new top dog at receiver in Atlanta, and he got there sooner than expected.
Julio Jones is in his second season, but he already looks the part of an elite veteran. His 240 receiving yards are by far the most in the league thus far this preseason, and it looks as though the chemistry is in midseason form between Matt Ryan and him.
Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez will still be big factors in that offense, but Jones will threaten top-five receiver status if his preseason is any indication.
8. Stevan Ridley: 16 att., 87 yards, 1 TD; 3 rec., 17 yards at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Are the days of Belichickery behind us, or is he setting us all up for another punking?
Ridley appears to have pulled away from Shane Vereen as the starter in New England despite some fumble issues this preseason, and Vereen is nursing an injury. The last time Belichick truly relied on one back was during the brief Corey Dillon era in New England, which produced an outstanding fantasy season.
The likelihood Ridley will retain a similar workload is low, but he is the back to own in New England if you want to play Running Back Roulette.
9. Brandon Marshall: 5 rec., 51 yards, 1 TD at New York Giants
There has been no bigger proponent of the reunited Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall tandem than yours truly, and this is a good example why. Of course Marshall is not going to catch 160 balls for 1,632 yards and 32 touchdowns, but this was a sign of things to come.
Cutler loves Marshall. He may have been off overall, but the Chicago quarterback targeted Marshall an eye-popping 10 times in one half of play.
That is not a sustainable approach to the season, but you can bet Marshall will be Cutler’s binky regardless.
10. Justin Blackmon: 4 rec., 87 yards
Normally rookie wide receivers are difficult to predict as fantasy football players, but Blackmon has quickly become the best rookie wideout to own in 2012.
He has caught up quickly after an offseason DUI and resulting contract dispute that kept him out of much of training camp and the first preseason game. Blaine Gabbert appears to trust him already, targeting the rookie 12 times in the limited time they have had during the past two preseason games, with successful results.
Blackmon will not exactly be a WR1, but he has the potential for a strong fantasy season that could land him in the top 25.
11. Russell Wilson: 13/19, 185 yards, 2 TDs; 2 att., 58 yards at Kansas City Chiefs
The preseason’s biggest surprise earned himself a start to state his case for the permanent gig, and he passed with flying colors.
Russell Wilson has sparkled all preseason, bucking his detractors who said he would be too short to play quarterback. The 5’10” wunderkind responded with a scorching performance against Kansas City’s starters.
Rookie quarterbacks are always risky fantasy propositions, but it certainly looks like Wilson will vie for fantasy rookie of the year at his position. He is doing what we all expected out of Robert Griffin III. Of course there is a chance he is one of those preseason flash-in-the-pans like so many before him, but an excellent performance as a starter was a great sign for anyone willing to take an upside shot at him in redraft formats.
12. Larry Fitzgerald: 5 rec., 91 yards at Tennessee Titans
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed fantasy football over the past couple of seasons, but any concerns you might have about Fitzgerald’s situation should be allayed by the fact that he has produced good fantasy numbers regardless.
He has had to deal with the likes of Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for years now, and he is talented enough to get his no matter what. It is a shame that his prime will be wasted by the riff raff at quarterback, but draft him with confidence.
13. Rashad Jennings: 36 att., 175 yards, 0 TDs; 1 rec., 5 yards
His rushing totals from the preseason are encouraging, but tread with caution if you are bullish on Jennings as Maurice Jones-Drew’s contract dispute continues.
Jennings has not hit paydirt this preseason, and his lone reception is a bit of a red flag. MJD has caught plenty of passes with the Jaguars; some of his value is tied to his pass-catching ability.
Jennings has averaged 4.86 YPC this preseason, though, and he has always been an upside handcuff. His ADP is skyrocketing right now after the announcement that Jones-Drew would miss Week 1; he is getting into “overvalued” territory. Remember, MJD can end his holdout any day, and he will regain his starter role eventually if that happens.
Do you really want to have a seventh-round handcuff on your hands for most of the season?