Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning last year for most passing touchdowns in a season by a rookie (26).
The preseason can be boring at times. By the fourth quarter, the game features guys who will be on the practice squad in a week playing against each other.
But every now and then, a player emerges and makes a name for himself in the preseason.
Spotting these guys can benefit your fantasy football knowledge. Take last year, for example. Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris both finished in the top 20 of scoring in fantasy football.
Before the season started, nobody expected either player to be a major factor. ESPN's Matthew Berry had Wilson ranked as his 17th quarterback and Morris as his 53rd running back. That was common throughout the entire fantasy community.
If you take a look at their preseason numbers, their regular-season numbers make sense.
Wilson came into the preseason as a backup quarterback. His play, however, was able to move him into the starting role.
He finished the preseason completing 40 of 63 passes (63.5 percent) for 536 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. He also showed his mobility, running 10 times for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll couldn’t ignore these numbers and had to make Wilson the starter over free-agent acquisition Matt Flynn. Wilson would go on to throw for over 3,600 yards and 26 touchdowns in the regular season.
Morris had a breakout performance against the Indianapolis Colts, rushing 14 times for 107 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He got the start after showing promise in the first two games.
Last year isn't the only time we've seen preseason stars shine in the regular season. In 2011, there were two wide receivers who dominated the fantasy football world and both of them went undrafted in leagues. Those two receivers are Antonio Brown and Victor Cruz.
Some people said that these players “came from nowhere,” but if you paid attention to the preseason, you would have been ahead of the game.
Cruz’s preseason burst came from the year before. He started off with a monster game against the New York Jets in the first week of the 2010 preseason. He caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Some people look past a performance like this because it’s “just preseason.” You shouldn't do that.
It doesn’t matter what kind of game it is. When you see stats like that, a player should immediately be on your radar. He finished that preseason with a few more nice games in Weeks 3 and 4.
Despite Cruz’s impressive preseason, his 2010 regular season didn’t produce any statistics. He also didn’t play in 2011 until injuries forced him into the starting lineup. From there, he made the most of the opportunity and finished third in receiving yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Brown also should have been on your radar after the 2011 preseason. His Week 3 performance against the Atlanta Falcons—four receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns—proved that he had skills.
Brown was able to deliver early in the regular season due to an injury to Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders. He eventually earned the starting job and went on to have a 1,100-yard season.
Redskins running back Roy Helu was another player who proved his worth in the 2011 preseason. In the second game, he rushed for over 100 yards while averaging seven yards a carry. He would later go on to be the Redskins' starting running back and have a stretch of three 100-yard games.
In 2010, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster had a great preseason when he rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys. He would later go on to lead the NFL in rushing that year.
Another player who had a great performance in a 2010 preseason game was Broncos receiver Eric Decker. In Week 4, he caught 10 passes for 114 yards.
It took him until 2011 to get his opportunity in the regular season, but when he got it, he was able to produce. He had even more success last season when he finished as a top-10 receiver in fantasy.
Even going a year earlier to 2009, then-Jets running back Danny Woodhead had an incredible performance against the Philadelphia Eagles when he ran 18 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. In 2010, as a member of the Patriots, Woodhead became fantasy-relevant and provided some nice games. He continued his success in 2012 when he finished with a total of 747 rushing and receiving yards.
To be fair, this isn’t an exact science. In 2011, Cam Newton had a terrible preseason. He only completed 42.1 percent of his passes and threw just one touchdown in 57 pass attempts. He obviously got a lot better in the regular season.
The biggest thing to take away is, don’t totally dismiss the preseason. There are a lot of talented players in the NFL who may never get the chance to showcase their skills. The only time they are granted an opportunity is in the preseason.
So when a player produces over 100 yards in limited playing time, it shows what kind of ability they have.
These players are usually undrafted or late-round draft picks. The important part is remembering their name, so if there's an injury, you know ahead of time who the next man up will be.
Knowing these guys ahead of time means you can pick them up on the waiver wire and dominate your league.