September 06, 2017

There's an old saying in the NFL: Preseason games may not count but they do matter. That holds true for fantasy football, as well.

Watching the exhibition games, especially the second halves, can be painful, but there's always something to learn. Here are the top things from this preseason that stood out.

DON'T DRAFT EARLY

The later you can set your draft, the better. We all want as much information as we can possibly get, so you really would like to wait until after rosters are initially set. Yes, setting a draft date is one of the hardest things to do each season - getting 12 people to agree on anything is quite a chore. But if you can wait, then you don't have to worry about finding replacements right away for players like Ryan Tannehill, Cam Meredith, Julian Edelman and Spencer Ware, as their types of season-ending injuries during the preseason happen every year.

ELLIOTT, BUST OR BOOM

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott could be the biggest boom-or-bust player this season. At the moment, we probably should say bust or boom. Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic violence case was upheld Tuesday, but he'll play in the season opener because of the timing of the arbitrator's decision. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said he would rule on Elliott's request for a temporary restraining order by Friday. Back when we thought Elliott would only get a maximum of two games, he was still universally thought of as the third overall pick behind fellow backs David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell, but now he is being drafted all over the place - in any one of the first four rounds. He's a gamble, but will he pay off? I don't think so. Why spend a high pick on a player who is unlikely to return full value? You may be thinking even if Elliott does serve the full six-game suspension, you will get him for your fantasy playoffs, where he can lead you to a championship. Not so fast. During weeks 14-16 (the fantasy playoffs in a majority of leagues), the Cowboys will play at the New York Giants, at Oakland, and at home versus Seattle. That's not exactly a recipe for success. Let someone else take that risk.

PATS IN AFC EAST

Will the Patriots have more wins than the rest of the AFC East combined? Even with the loss of Edelman, the Pats are cream of the crop in their division, if not the entire AFC. The Jets are mailing in the season and playing for the future. Fantasy-wise, the only player likely to be drafted as a starter from the Jets is Bilal Powell. The Bills aren't that far behind the Jets but do have LeSean McCoy and Jordan Matthews as draft-worthy, but Buffalo seems willing to deal anyone who is not nailed down as the team is trying to collect future draft picks. The Dolphins have multiple injuries to their linebacker corps and lost their starting quarterback for the season. New England will easily win this division and could upset fantasy owners should it have home-field advantage clinched by Week 14 or 15 - the Patriots might start resting players.

ROOKIE RUSHERS

This could be the year of the rookie running back. The position is weak in fantasy football. After Johnson and Bell, there are questions about most others and simply not enough players to go around. What will certainly help this season is the additions of rookies Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt and Dalvin Cook. They are being drafted as low-end RB1s to mid-range RB2s, starters no matter what type of league you're playing in. Think about that. Five of the first 15-20 RBs off the board are unproven. They could either make or break your team.

QB IS DEEP

Quarterback is extremely deep. Whether you play in a 10- or 12-team league, it's just too easy to say wait until Round 9 or later before drafting a QB. Sure, you won't get Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady, but you will still do quite well with Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota and this strategy will allow you to load up on your WRs and RBs. In most years, we will see the top QBs and bottom ones only separated by a few points, so you can spend that early draft capital at other positions.

INDY RISKY

Make no mistake about it, without Andrew Luck the Colts are in a world of trouble. With Luck, this team could possibly compete for a playoff spot, but without him the only thing they will be competing for is a top draft pick in 2018. The defense is poor, the running game is average at best and the offensive line has significant holes. Luck is out for Week 1 and it's really anyone's guess as to when he will return. He hasn't practiced yet. What makes anyone think he will be back to his Pro Bowl self as soon as he returns, or that he can stay healthy behind that line? Be very wary of drafting T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief or Frank Gore.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

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