Fantasy Football Six-Pack: Preseason stats that offer clues about NFL season ahead
The greatest thing about the 2022 NFL preseason is, of course, the fact that it's finally over. Very soon, we will have actual statistics from an actual regular season game. Someone (hopefully you) will be winning your opening week fantasy matchup.
But before we let go of the preseason entirely, let's take a look at a six-pack of stats you may have missed, which, in theory, might give us a few clues about the fantasy season ahead. We begin with a rookie who was arguably the exhibition MVP...
144 - Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely wrapped up his stellar preseason with 144 receiving yards, the most of any player in the league at his position. He caught all 12 of his targets and gained 71 of his yards after contact according to PFF. It was the closest thing to a perfect preseason we saw from anyone. Just look at this nonsense:
Likely to make a great play 🔥
Tune in on WBAL! @DaGorilla4 pic.twitter.com/cMWZcVuG0x
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 12, 2022
Not bad for a third-day draft pick. Likely simply could not be stopped all summer. He's obviously no great threat to Mark Andrews, though he may have forced his way into the conversation to be the Ravens No. 3 receiving option. His opening week usage is definitely worth watching.
137.5 - This was the preseason passer-rating delivered by Atlanta's Marcus Mariota, who averaged 14.0 Y/A and went 3-for-3 on deep shots. We don't actually need him to emerge as a viable fantasy starter this year (seems unlikely), but we do need him to successfully feed both Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Mariota has never averaged more than 234.8 passing yards per game or 7.6 Y/A in any previous season, so at least a small leap in production would be appreciated. Early signs were encouraging.
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17.3 - Lance McCutcheon, an undrafted receiver out of Montana State, made the Rams' 53-man roster after feasting in three exhibition games in which he averaged 17.3 yards per catch. McCutcheon caught 15 of his 20 preseason targets and his 259 receiving yards led all players. He's not a burner, but he's 6-foot-3 with silly wingspan, a contested catch specialist.
.@TDN_Perk GOING DEEEEP TO @mccutcheonlance!
📺 @ABC7 | 📱 https://t.co/4beUdmlymg pic.twitter.com/UroH4dWZuo
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 14, 2022
He hauled in 63 balls for 1,219 yards and nine scores for the Bobcats last season, including a 5-106-1 performance in the FCS championship game against NDSU. McCutcheon wouldn't be of great interest for fantasy purposes under normal circumstances, but please recall that Van Jefferson is still recovering from a knee procedure and isn't a lock to play the opener (or in Week 2). If Jefferson sits, perhaps the playmaking rookie will see the field.
10.8 - Mitch Trubisky, who was only recently named the Steelers starting QB to open the season, had a preseason average depth of target of 10.8, one of the highest in the NFL. He also completed 70.6 percent of his throws and averaged 8.3 Y/A. (Kenny Pickett's preseason ADOT was a far-less-aggressive 6.6, by the way.) We're not trying to construct an argument that Trubisky himself is a dramatically re-made and improved quarterback; nothing that happened this summer in 34 preseason attempts can erase his four messy years in Chicago. But it's certainly nice to have a Pittsburgh quarterback taking downfield shots, which, theoretically, should benefit Chase Claypool and George Pickens. Last year, Ben Roethlisberger's ADOT was 7.1, second-lowest among all starters.
6.1 - You've surely read a zillion favorable things about Houston rookie Dameon Pierce, but here's another: He averaged 6.1 yards after contact per attempt on his 11 preseason carries, which is absurd. Pierce, as you probably know, was never a full-workload guy at the collegiate level, so expecting him to be an every-snap featured runner immediately in the NFL is ... well, it's not gonna happen. Rex Burkhead hasn't gone away. Still, Pierce absolutely earned his massive late ADP bump.
6 - Atlanta first-year running back Tyler Allgeier forced six missed tackles on his 17 preseason carries, gaining 68 yards after contact and generally passing the eye test. He also caught all four of his targets and found the end zone both as a rusher and receiver.
We ain't backing down. @desmondridder -> @tylerallgeier17 pic.twitter.com/t9Vk3CYw3F
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 27, 2022
The Falcons face a rough assignment in the opener against New Orleans, but Allgeier remains an excellent bench stash. His team's starting RB is a 31-year-old converted kick returner, so it's not difficult to imagine a path to serious usage for the rookie.